FEATURE — As fall sports continue in the coming weeks, athletes all over the country will begin to ramp up their activity, most likely after a lengthy absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the most common injuries, especially if not properly strengthened is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament – more commonly known as ACL – knee injury.
Not only is this injury potentially season ending, but it is likely to have major financial implications for athletes and their families. The Utah Athletic Trainers Association recently released five key pieces of knowledge to help educate athletes and active individuals about how to prevent an ACL injury.
There are more than 120,000 ACL years in the U.S. every year. In 2006 the estimated surgical costs for ACL reconstruction was over $1 billion, and that has only increased. Athletic trainers, who possess knowledge regarding injury prevention and injury rehabilitation, are well positioned to help athletes recover effectively during the upcoming training period.
Consider the five important things to know about ACL injuries:
1- Who is most at risk for ACL injuries
Female athletes are two to 3 1/2 times more likely to tear their ACL than their male counterparts. Soccer and basketball are the two sports most likely to cause an ACL, although any sport or position with cutting and lateral movement can increase risk. Collegiate athletes are at a greater risk than high school age athletes.
2- When do people tear their ACL?
The most common way – or “mechanism of injury” – that people injure their ACL is when they are landing after a jump or are twisting their knee to perform an action. Think about crossing the ball as a soccer player. There are certainly other ways, like cutting as a running back, but landing and twisting are far and away the most common.
3- Why you need to strengthen your hamstrings?
Proper strength, both before and during rehabilitation of an ACL injury is key. Evidence shows us that you are much more likely to injure your ACL when you have strong quadriceps (the muscle in the front of the thigh) and strong gluteus maximus (your buttocks muscle) and weaker hamstrings (the muscle in the back of your thigh) and weaker gastrocnemius (your big calf muscle).
The hamstring muscle actually provides some additional support for your ACL. So it is in your best interest to have guidance on optimal hamstring strength.
4- How and when you return to sport is very important?
One important thing to know is if you have torn your ACL, you are just as likely to injury you other ACL when returning to activity as you are to reinjure your previously injured ACL. Additionally, you are anywhere from four to 25 times more likely to reinjure your ACL following reconstruction.
This means that when you return to activity is very important. Research shows that your risk for reinjury is decreased when returning to activity at least nine months after surgery.
5- Are you at risk? What should you do?
If you fall into the category of people described in No. 1, you may be at risk of an ACL injury. The good news is there are a number of different ACL prevention programs out there. For the most up-to-date information contact the athletic trainer at your local high school. You can ask your local athletic director.
“Certified Athletic Trainers are healthcare professionals that can identify biomechanical and strength concerns in athletes and active individuals,” said President of the Utah Athletic Trainers Association Marcus Homer, MBA, MSeD, LAT, ATC. “They then work with the patient to help correct these issues, which in turn helps prevent an ACL injury from occurring.”
To learn more about athletic training in the state of Utah you can find us on Facebook, Twitter at @UTATCs, or Instagram @ut-ata.
Written by DILLON HYLAND, Dixie State University.
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