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ACL Knee Injury Prevention For Athletes

If you participate in any sport that involves some form of jumping, cutting or changing directions quickly you run the risk of an ACL injury. The purpose of this article is to help shed some insight on why ACL injuries occur and how to prevent one.

If you’re a female athlete pay special attention as you’re four to five times more likely to experience a non-contact ACL injury than a male athlete. There are numerous reasons for this but a primary difference in males and females is the width of their pelvis.

The wider pelvis in females creates a greater “Q angle” or the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone). The increased angle places more stress on the knee joint during landing or changing directions.

How ACL knee injuries commonly occur with athletes

For both males and females a non-contact ACL injury is most likely to occur when the athlete is decelerating. This is typically when you’re landing from a jump or changing directions when cutting.

During deceleration if the tibia locks while the upper body and femur rotates in a different direction this will cause significant rotational forces at the knee. If the stress is too much you’ll experience a painful ACL tear.

Fortunately there are exercises to help prevent your chances of experiencing a season ending ACL injury.

Strategies for preventing an ACL knee injury

The first thing I like to teach my athletes is how to land correctly from a jump. You’ll often see an athlete landing “tall” with their knees locked out. You want to practice landing “quietly” with the weight distributed evenly over your feet and your knees flexed.

You shouldn’t hear the slap of your feet making contact to the floor. Jumping in your socks or bare feet can really help train the neuromuscular system during these drills. Practice with single jumps first then progress to multiple jumps and rotating 180 degrees in the air before landing.

Deficiencies in regard to proprioception, coordination, muscular balance and recruitment are also found when the athlete fails to train in a functional manner. The typical equipment found in health clubs is designed to isolate muscle groups and not integrate them.



An athlete should train with movements similar to their sport while on their feet. After all if you’re sitting down on the court or the field you won’t be making any plays!

The use of BOSU balls, Dyna discs and foam rollers while squatting and lunging can help develop proprioception and muscle integration. This will significantly decrease your likelihood of experiencing an ACL injury.

Finally, a fitness professional trained in kinesiology can help identify any muscular imbalances that could create a mechanical deficiency increasing the likelihood of injury.

Many times we’ll find athletes have stronger quadriceps compared to their hamstrings. A weak posterior chain that has inhibited glutes along with tight IT bands can cause external rotation of the femur and produce more stress at the knees.

Correcting these issues with a personalized exercise and stretching program will help keep you on the field or court and making plays!

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fitness expert, speaker, author and founder of Shaping Concepts Fitness Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE trial of his personal training programs to experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Corrective Exercise.