Written by: Corey Wencl, LAT with Agnesian HealthCare’s Sports, Spine & Work Center
To many it seems like more and more people are tearing their Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) these days. From professional athletes like Adrian Peterson and Robert Griffith III down to our local high school athletes and even some children younger than that now seem to be tearing their ACL at a more prevalent rate. “Why does this happen?” and “How can this be prevented?” are two common questions that are asked when one tears their ACL.
First, let’s talk about the question as to why this injury happens. An ACL tear can be a result of either a contact or non-contact injury. In both contact and non-contact injuries there may be enough force produced at the knee that one’s ACL cannot handle the load placed on it therefore resulting in failure. Here is a list of some risk factors for one tearing their ACL:
- Females are anywhere from two to 10 times more likely to tear their ACL
- A muscle imbalance in the thigh muscles, with the quadriceps (front) being significantly stronger than the hamstrings (back)
- Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle
- Increased Q angle at the knee (Q angle is simply the angle at which the femur and the tibia articulate with each other at the knee)
- Genetics can play a role
- A small intercondylar notch can also have an effect (Intercondylar notch can best be described as the space at which the ACL travels through inside your knee)
- Improper landing mechanics
Now, we can take a look at the second question of how can this injury be prevented. There is no guarantee that one will not tear their ACL, even if prevention strategies are incorporated. With this being said, the likelihood of an ACL tear occurring can be minimized. The following are a few simple ways to do so. One can increase the strength of their hamstrings so their quadriceps to hamstring ratio is anywhere from 3:2 to 4:3 ratio. Simply stated for every 100 pounds you can lift with your quads you should be able to lift anywhere from 66 to 75 pounds with your hamstrings. One can work on jumping and landing correctly by making sure their knees don’t come together (also called “knock kneed”). Finally, by making sure you get your muscles ready for the activity you are participating in by doing a proper active warm-up will be beneficial.
Agnesian HealthCare’s SPEED (Sports Program Enhancement & Explosive Development) program is a great way to maintain fitness during the summer, get educated in proper jumping and landing techniques, and develop core strength which is crucial to sports performance. See agnesian.com/sportsperformance for more information.