“My daughter plays basketball and 2 of her friends just suffered ACL tears. How can I decrease the risk of an ACL tear with my daughter?”

This is a common question I get asked, especially when a teammate or the news reports on a high profile professional athlete tearing their ACL (anterior cruciate ligament in the knee).

Anytime an injury hits close to home, people become instantly aware that they could be at risk for injury too. It can be a little scary because sports are supposed to be fun. No one plays a sport and thinks they will get injured. In fact, most of the time people think that getting injured will never happen to them.

This is a myth. Injuries do happen and they can happen to you, your son, your daughter, and even your spouse. 

Let’s look at some facts to show that while ACL injuries seem like a very common occurrence, the incidence of ACL injuries is low compared to the number of athletes participating in sports.

As you can see, the risk for an ACL injury is low and should not be used to sway a want-to-be athlete from trying a sport or from stopping a sport that they currently enjoy.

70% of ACL injuries occur due to pivoting, cutting, sidestepping, landing awkwardly from a jump position, or playing out of control. 30% of ACL injuries occur from contact with another player. 

In my opinion and based on the ACL injuries I have witnessed, many ACL injuries CAN BE PREVENTED with the right training and conditioning. Let’s look at a few of the causes of ACL injury and how each one can be prevented: 

  • Pivoting, cutting, and sidestepping

 These movements require quick changes in direction. If the body is not strong enough or flexible enough to accommodate the quick change, then something has to give. That typically is the ACL.

      • Prevention Tip: 
        • Perform strengthening exercises 3x/week
        • Perform core stabilization and strengthening exercises 3x/week
        • Perform sport-specific strengthening for speed, agility, and quickness 2-3x/week
        • Stretch to maintain good flexibility daily
        • *** Seek a physical therapist and request that they create a specific ACL Prevention program for you to include all of the above (This is my favorite option!) 
  • Landing awkwardly from a jump position 
      • When an athlete jumps and then lands back on the court, they should land on both feet with their knees bent and in line with their 2nd toe of each foot. When athletes have wider hips (females), weak hip muscles, weak quad muscles, and weak core muscles, they tend to land with their knees inward or knocked together. The force of the landing coupled with the knees moving inward can cause an ACL tear. 
  • Prevention Tip: 
        • Seek a physical therapist for an evaluation to assess posture, hip-to-knee knee angle, and foot position - sometimes an athlete’s foot position may need an orthotic to create better alignment in the knees and hips so the knees don’t fall in during the landing (This could save you thousands in medical bills later!)  
        • Perform strengthening exercises 3x/week
        • Perform core stabilization and strengthening exercises 3x/week
        • Perform sport-specific strengthening for speed, agility, and quickness 2-3x/week
        • Stretch to maintain good flexibility daily
        • Learn proper jumping and landing techniques
          • Notice this is AFTER getting stronger and more flexible; if weakness and tight are the cause of poor knee position in landing, you can practice good landing all you want but you won’t be able to get good at it until you fix the real problem of weakness and tightness 
  • Playing out of control 
      • This can happen when a skilled player plays with an unskilled player, i.e. the “pick-up game” in the neighborhood
        • Basketball should NEVER be played in running shoes or flip flops.. Running shoes are designed to propel the foot forward and not designed for side-to-side motion in basketball. Playing basketball with friends in the neighborhood while wearing running shoes or flip flops will likely either cause an ankle sprain or a knee sprain (ACL injury) because these type of shoes do not create stability in the foot and ankle. When the foot and ankle rotates, the knee also rotates. 
        • Prevention Tip:
          • Wear appropriate shoe wear
        • Skilled players know all the positions of the game. They know “1” is the point guard, “2” is the shooting guard, “3” is the small forward, “4” is the power forward, and “5” is the center. The skilled player has certain expectations associated with each position. When the unskilled player doesn’t understand these positions and the skilled player does, the skilled player expects the unskilled player to be in a certain spot on the court. When this doesn’t happen, the skilled player is more likely to get hurt because they think a specific play will happen and it doesn’t. 
  • Prevention Tip: 
          • Play with athletes who are as skilled as you or better so that you can improve your skills
      • This can also happen when an athlete is excited, anxious, worried or scared about playing or a situation off the court. This is often the mental or emotional side of sports competition. The athlete might be thinking:
        • “It’s the big game, I have to play at my best.” (excitement)
        • “The college recruiter is here, I have to show I am more skilled than anyone else.” (anxious)
        • “Where are my parents?” “Where is my boyfriend?” “Where is my girlfriend?” (worry)
        • “I played awful last time, if I don’t do better I might get benched.” (fear)


  • Prevention Tip: 
      • Pay attention to your athlete’s behaviour - are they acting out of character before the practice or game?
      • Talk with your athlete - ask them about their day, learn what else is going on outside of sports so you have a full picture of possible stressors 

Fact: Not every injury can be prevented.

Fact: Many injuries can be prevented. 

No one thinks that they will be the one to get hurt. 

Most athletes know they should warm-up before they play and cool-down after they play. 

Most athletes don’t realize that specific exercises designed for the sport they want to play can prevent not only ACL injuries, but also other injuries like ligament sprains, muscle strains, tendinitis, or general aches and pains.

I encourage you to schedule a FREE video chat Discovery Visit with me so I can watch you move. I will be able to share with you IMMEDIATELY what your risk for injury might be just by watching how your body moves. 

You can schedule at https://app.acuityscheduling.com/schedule.php?owner=17064376&appointmentType=category:Dr.+Jeanette%27s+Services 

Hope to see you soon!


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