Stay Safe and Perform Better – ACL Prevention Program

ACL

A couple weeks ago, I got the chance to dust off my golf clubs and go to the driving range. I hit 100 golf balls with four different clubs, and all of them went the same distance. I know that isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but hey, I never said I was good at golf. I just have the dream of hitting a hole in one, so I looked up the odds and it is about a one in 3,500 chance. Given that I can’t hit the ball like a pro, or even a good amateur, my dream will probably never happen, but I’m always going to prepare for the day by striking the ball whenever I get a chance.

From an odds standpoint, one in 3,500 is about .02 percent, which is a long shot, but accounts for approximately 100,000 people this year in the United States. These odds are the same as the possibility of tearing your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). For the same reasons I go out year after year and practice hoping for a par, I’d encourage you to make a small effort to work on lowering your chances of tearing an ACL with an ACL prevention program.

ACL prevention programs have been created and mixed into teams warm-ups, cool downs and off-season lift programs and have been shown to be helpful. Research shows 75 to 85 percent less ACL injuries happen when athletes are on an ACL program. Programs are usually three-times per week and take about 30 to 45 minutes to perform or, in my experience, about 15 to 20 minutes of additional work onto the normal warm-up and cool down of a team sport. It’s no guarantee that you won’t tear your ACL, but if you can practice for your sport to get better, why not make a small investment in making sure you can potentially avoid a nine- to 12-month rehabilitation process, too?

A simple ACL program looks something like this:

  • Warm-up
  • Jogging – Two minutes forward, two minutes backward and two minutes of side shuffling
  • Stretching – Thirty seconds on each of these muscle groups:
    • Calf
    • Quad
    • Hamstring
    • Groin
    • Glute
    • Hip flexor

This should look similar to a basic high school gym class warm-up.

Agility Drills – During agility drills, look to maintain your balance. Have your knee stay behind your toes and do not allow your knee to sway toward the opposite side of your body.

  • Bend over and touch a ball on the ground in front of you 10 times.
  • Balance on one leg in a mini squat for 60 to 90 seconds while dribbling a basketball, playing catch or trying to kicking a soccer ball.

At this point, we added approximately five minutes to your warm-up, and you should be ready to perform your normal practice, pick-up game or workout.

Strength Portion – After your workout, perform strength exercises that reinforce proper mechanics of jumping and landing and help you control your body while you’re tired. Most injuries happen to people when they are tired or near the end of a game because they lose focus on controlling their body.

During this strength portion, you should be looking to stay focused, keep your knees from going toward each other during the landing and land softly and on the balls of your feet.

  • Squat jumps with two second hold at the landing 10 times
  • Tuck jumps 20 times
  • Lateral jumps 10 times each side
  • Lunge 10 times each side
  • Plank two times for 30 seconds front and each side

Cool Down – Perform your normal cool down or a nice foam rolling session.

An ACL prevention program doesn’t guarantee you won’t tear your ACL any more than me hitting the driving range three times per week to help fix my golf swing will guarantee me a hole in one, but it doesn’t mean I’m not going to go out and try. I encourage you to take a few extra minutes to help prevent an ACL injury, and I hope your extra work is fruitful to your sports performance and ACL injury prevention.

By: Bryce Vorters, M.S., ATC, LAT. Bryce is the head athletic trainer with NovaCare Rehabilitation