Acute Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury Prevention
One of the most common knee injuries is a tear in the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Not only does it happen frequently, but an ACL tear can create tremendous difficulties whether you are a professional athlete or a weekend warrior. The Mount Sinai Department of Orthopedics can help. Following are some useful tips on how to prevent ACL tears and injuries:
- Warm-up: Get your blood circulating and support your muscles and joints before starting any practices, games, or physical activities.
- Stretch: Before you get into the meat of the workout, stretch to warm up your muscles and increase your flexibility. This decreases risk of injury. Focus on any areas that feel tight.
- Build lower-body strength: Squats and lunges can help build strength in hips and thighs, which can protect your knees. Use proper form to get the full benefit.
- Balance exercises: Many injuries occur when you are off balance. Practice exercises that increase your agility and help you jump and land safely.
- Rest: Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night, take periodic rest days, and alternate difficult workouts.
- Listen to your body: Pain is a warning signal. If you experience pain or sustain an injury, stop and seek medical attention.
Why the ACL Matters
The ACL is at the center of your knee. It provides stability for your entire leg, making it especially important for sports performance—and even just walking down the street. Many athletic activities put the ACL at risk for injury, especially jumping, sudden stops, and changes in direction. The sports that most put your ACL at risk include soccer, basketball, football, and downhill skiing.
In addition, athletes who train year-round for their sport use the same muscle group over and over. Without following the steps outlined above, this repetitive effort puts you at serious risk of developing a partial or complete ACL tear.
If you continue to play your sport with an injured ACL, you may end up needing surgical reconstruction and rehabilitation. Fortunately, the Mount Sinai Department of Orthopedic surgeons are here for you. We can often use advanced minimally invasive arthroscopic surgery techniques to repair ACL injuries. This approach may allow you to return to daily activities within a week and start playing sports again within four to six months.