One of the most common injuries among those who participate in sports is a tear or sprain of the anterior cruciate ligament, otherwise known as the ACL. This ligament runs diagonally across the center of the knee and provides rotational stability.
ACL injuries are most common in athletes who participate in sports that require sudden stops, turns, and jumps such as basketball, soccer, football, tennis, and downhill skiing. Athletes dread ACL injuries because they can be quite debilitating and have a long recovery process—leaving them unable to play. Fortunately, there are ways to help prevent ACL injuries and a range of treatment options if you do experience an injury.
How to Prevent an ACL Injury
If you participate in sports, exercise, or lead an active lifestyle, then follow these tips to avoid injury:
- Strengthen your leg muscles: Strength training exercises that target the quadriceps, hamstrings, and muscles surrounding the knee can significantly increase resilience against ACL injuries.
- Improve your balance: Improving balance and strengthening the small muscles of the feet, ankles, legs, and knees can help prevent unnatural twists and pivots that cause ACL tears.
- Always warm up: Warming up and stretching large muscle groups prior to intense activity can help to loosen muscles, which in turn may help to may help prevent a range of injuries, including ACL sprains or tears.
- Use proper footwear: Ill-fitting shoes can impair your balance and increase the likelihood of trips, twists, and falls. Take the time to make sure your footwear is properly fitted.
- Pay attention to technique: Practicing proper athletic technique is essential if you want to avoid injury. Talk a sports trainer or coach to ensure that your technique is safe and correct.
- Consult a Sports Medicine Specialist: Meet with an orthopedic physician who specializes in sports medicine before you actually experience an injury. The doctor can identify areas that may be weak or susceptible to injury and recommend exercises to help strengthen those specific areas.
How to Treat an ACL Injury
If you do endure an ACL injury, then there are a wide range of treatment options available including:
- The RICE Protocol: You can reduce pain and swelling immediately after the injury by resting, applying ice to the injury, wrapping a compression bandage around your knee, and using pillows to elevate your knee above your heart.
- Rehabilitation: Your physician may prescribe rehabilitation therapy for several weeks. You’ll work with a specialist who will guide you through different exercises and therapies to facilitate healing and strengthen your knee to help prevent future injuries.
- Surgery: If your ACL is torn, then it will need to be surgically repaired. You’ll undergo rehabilitation therapy after surgery to ensure proper healing and restore complete range of motion.
If you are experiencing knee pain or think you may have an ACL injury, then contact Dr. James Parolie at Somerset Orthopedic & Sports Medicine. Dr. Parolie specializes in sports injuries and arthroscopic surgery. Call 908-425-4990 to schedule an appointment today.