Preventing ACL Injury through Strengthening Exercises
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is extremely important to all,
as this ligament controls rotational forces in the knee. If
this ligament is torn, sudden changes in direction become nearly impossible.
Prevention of injuries to the ACL should be part of every training
Are Women At Higher Risk of ACL Injury?
The causes of ACL injury have recently been the focus of research. Factors
contributing to ACL injuries include ground hardness, grass type and cleat type.
But one of the other major findings is that women are nearly three times more
likely to have ACL injuries than men. And some statistics says that a female
soccer player is eight times more likely to injury her ACL than a male soccer
player. Statistically, participants in women's basketball and soccer are at a
higher risk to tear an ACL. So it's even more important that women find some
affordable health insurance, since they are more likely to become injured
from participation in sports.
There are many theories as to why females are more at risk for this injury.
Some of them include:
a narrower notch width of the femoral head;
the relative strength and muscle recruitment pattern of the
hamstring muscles relative to the
differences in hormone levels on ligament
high levels of estrogen; and
lack of proper training at a young age.
Findings have show a difference in neuromuscular
control in women when landing jumps (women appear to have less
hip and knee
flexion than men). Most experts believe that the incidence of ACL tears can be
lowered by instituting some simple changes in the training of not only female
athletes but all athletes.
General sports training should be centered around a properly
program. The program
should be planned so that the athlete progresses through specific phases of
conditioning culminating in peak performance at the end of the sport season. The
goal should be for the athlete to peak physically and mentally for the playoffs.
The strengthening phase of the program focuses on
strength. This will lead to increased leg strength and a more stable
knee joint. Technique is everything; close attention must be paid to the
performance of these
exercises in order to avoid injury.
balance of power and the recruitment pattern of
the quads and hamstrings have been shown to prevent ACL injuries. The
quad muscles are an ACL antagonist, that is they place stress on the ACL
when contracting. The hamstrings are an ACL agonist, removing ACL stress
when contracting. Due to this, if the hamstrings are excessively weak
or inflexible they may not adequately protect the ACL during a strong
quad contraction. Also, if the quad group is excessively strong,
relative to the hamstrings, the ACL may be torn due to a lack of
hamstring "protection." ACL injury prevention should then focus on a
balance in strength between the hamstrings and quads. It is recommended
that the hamstrings should be 60 - 80% as strong as the quads. Also, proprioceptive exercises should be utilized to improve the neuromuscular
recruitment patterns of the quads and hamstrings.
The strength program should focus on the
exercises that result in increased hamstring strength and flexibility as
well as coordinative jumping exercises (plyometrics). During the first
few weeks of training the emphasis should be on teaching proper jumping
and landing techniques. The athletes should be taught to land on the balls of the feet with the knees flexed and the
over the knees. They should be constantly reminded to avoid any
excessive side-to-side or forward-to-back rocking of the knees upon
landing. Valgus (inward) movement of the knee upon landing should also
Proper body mechanics should be the goal. Weight room activities should focus on exercises that
improve hamstring strength and coordinated firing with the quad muscle
group. Examples of these types of exercises are:
squats, power cleans, and
dead lift. As with the plyometric exercises,
proper technique should be taught prior to increasing the load. Be sure
that the trainee's hamstrings are 60 - 80% as strong as the quad
muscles; that is, if the athlete can perform a 1-leg
knee extension with
100 pounds they should be able to do a 1-leg hamstring curl with 60 - 80
Walking Lunges (3 sets x 10 reps)
Elapsed Time: 6.5 - 7.5 min
Purpose: Strengthen the thigh (quadriceps) muscle.
Lunge forward leading with your right leg.
Push off with your right leg and lunge forward with your left leg.
Drop the back knee straight down.
Make sure that your keep your front knee over your ankle.
Control the motion and try to avoid your front knee from caving
If you cannot see your toes on your leading leg, you are doing the
Hamstrings (3 sets x 10 reps)
Elapsed Time: 7.5 - 8.5 min
Purpose: Strengthen hamstrings muscles.
Kneel on the ground with hands at your side.
Have a partner hold firmly at your ankles.
With a straight back, lean forward leading with your hips.
Your knee, hip and shoulder should be in a straight line as you
lean toward the ground.
Do not bend at the waist.
You should feel the hamstrings in the back of your thigh
Repeat the exercise for 3 sets of 10, or a total of 30 reps.
Single Toe Raises (30 reps x 2 reps)
Elapsed Time: 8.5 - 9.5 min
Purpose: This exercise strengthens the calf muscle and
Stand up with your arms at your side.
Bend the left knee up and maintain your balance.
Slowly rise up on your right toes with good balance.
You may hold your arms out ahead of you in order to help.
Slowly repeat 30 times and switch to the other side.
As you get stronger, you may need to add additional
repetitions to this exercise to continue the strengthening effect
of the exercise.
Dated 29 November 2011