Preventing ACL injuries through strength and flexibility training
By Roger Gonzalez
Soccer offers up plenty of great moments for players and fans. But one particular spot has proved vulnerable to some of the most severe – and common – injuries seen in the game: the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL).
The ACL is a major ligament located in the knee, and an essential ligament for proper movement. Injury can occur when the knee is bent too far back or when it goes too far to the side. Whether it is a player jumping to head the ball who lands awkwardly or someone pivoting to run in another direction, it can happen suddenly.
James Collins, a licensed physical therapist in Virginia, has had plenty of experience dealing with ACL injuries.
“The ACL stabilizes the tibia [shin] on the femur [thigh],” said Collins. “In athletes, it typically ruptures when the foot is planted and a lateral/posterior force is applied. The force can be either contact (think slide tackle into the shin) or mechanical (rapid direction change when cutting). An incomplete tear can occur and may not require surgery. When completely torn, the medial meniscus and medial collateral ligament are frequently damaged as well.”
The injuries that occur the most are the ACL strain and the ACL tear. The ACL strain can sometimes be healed through physical therapy and muscle strengthening. The tear usually requires surgery. The symptoms of an ACL injury can be a popping sound, instability of the knee, swelling and pain.
Over the years, more females have suffered from the injury than men.
“The ACL is injured in women more than men in most sports,” Collins added. “Recent research suggests that anatomical and mechanical [landing mechanics] are mostly responsible for this discrepancy. Trainers have begun teaching athletes to land on their forefoot more than the rear foot. Hamstring and gluteal strengthening combined with flexibility training are very important.”
For a tear, an athlete can be out for six to nine months. However, many precautions can be taken. There are several exercises that can be performed to build the muscle around the ligament, thus lowering the chance of injury. According to the ACL Injury Prevention Program, which was created by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Foundation, the workout they created should be used to augment traditional training exercises.
There are six main parts to this workout:
6) Alternative Exercises
The workout contains lunges, shuttle runs, plenty of stretching and other various training methods. It is used to stretch and strengthen the hamstrings, thighs and the calf muscles, and modify your jumping and landing technique.
Soccer is a wonderful sport that all can enjoy. Just as it is important to have fun, it is equally important to be safe. To help prevent ACL injuries, the ACL Injury Prevention Program can help you or your kids take steps to assure a safe time on the field.