Are you an athlete? Do you have children involved in sports that might be susceptible to a knee injury? Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is located in the center of your knee, connecting your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone). The ACL provides stability to prevent forward movement and rotation of your knee joint especially while running, cutting in sports, or skiing down a mountain. A complete or partial ACL tear is common in both contact and non-contact sports. An ACL injury can leave a person unable to finish out a sports season and even possibly result in surgery. Many studies have shown that prevention programs can decrease your risk of sustaining an ACL tear.
Females are 4-6 times more likely to injure their ACL due to overuse of their quadriceps muscle (thigh muscle), knees coming together more during landing, and decreased ankle, knee and hip bending during athlete performance compared to males. (1, 2) Other risk factors include: footwear, surface type (e.g. grass, snow, ice, turf, wood), knee laxity (e.g. looseness), foot overpronation (flat feet), and body mass index (BMI). (3)
Screening examinations by a physical therapist can identify if you have any of these predisposing factors for an ACL injury. The examination may include an assessment of your stomach (core) and leg strength, hip, knee, and ankle range of motions, and completion of a series of functional tests to help determine if you are at risk for an ACL injury. (1, 2) Your mechanics will be assessed during tasks such as jumping off a box to the floor, during single leg jumps or with cutting motions. Once these factors are identified, your physical therapist can then develop an individualized treatment plan focusing on strength, sports mechanics, and flexibility to help you reduce these risk factors and in turn reduce the risk of ACL injury. Your physical therapist can educate and train you on the proper way to land to improve absorption of weight through the legs and muscles avoiding increased forces through the knee.
Have you ever had knee pain or a feeling of instability in your knee after playing in a sports game or skiing?