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Preventing ACL Injury

If you are a serious recreational athlete, your fitness plan should include a variety of exercises that will help prevent ACL injury. Finding a fitness professional that that specializes in sport conditioning, postural alignment and movement analysis can be helpful. Make sure that your trainer pays particular attention to your pelvic, knee and foot alignment, since these areas have a significant influence on susceptibility to ACL injuries. If you decide to develop your own injury prevention program, there are a number of factors that should be taken into consideration. Your injury prevention program should include:

Barefoot Training: Dancers and martial artists, who train barefoot, have the lowest incidence of ACL tears. Skiers, whose boots restrict proprioception, have the highest. Additionally, martial arts forms that teach students how to fall can be effective for cross training.

Integrate Strength and Balance Training: Balance training devices such as the stability ball, wobble board, dyna disc, bosu etc. are used by top athletic teams. They can be used in conjunction with strength training equipment to create an effective injury prevention program.

Work Your Hamstrings: A hamstring/quadriceps muscle imbalance is on of the most common reasons for ACL injury. One of the best sport-specific hamstring exercises is the stability ball leg curl. This exercise provides a superb workout for your hamstrings, core muscles, back muscles and gluteals.

  • Lay on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the ball.
  • Engage your core muscles, as you lift each vertebra from the floor.
  • From the bridge position, straighten your legs.
  • Stay in the bridge as you bend your knees.
  • Keep your knees bent as you return to the mat, vertebra by vertebra.

Avoid the Leg Extension Machine: This machine applies shearing forces to the knee, which in turn makes it more susceptible to ACL injury. Furthermore, the leg extension machine isolates the quadriceps. Since the quads are usually much stronger than the hamstrings, by isolating the quads, you risk increasing this imbalance. The leg press machine is a better option.

Practice “Closed Chain” Exercise: Closed Chain exercises keep your foot in a closed position. The foot either stays in contact with the floor or the foot pad on the machine. These exercises incorporate a variety muscle groups, while lessening the shearing forces on the knee. Examples of closed chain exercises are the squat and the leg press.

Plyometrics: Plyometrics can help participants achieve correct jump landing mechanisms. Since this involves landing with knees flexed, plyometrics can be a good way to achieve sufficient hamstring strength. However, plyometrics should not be practiced by anyone who already has knee problems.

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