An injury to the anterior cruciate ligament, often called the ACL, is a common but serious injury that can happen to your knee joint. The ACL is an important part of the knee joint since it provides support and stability for the knee, so when it gives out, you can be in a world of trouble.
Thankfully, there are ways to strengthen your knee and reduce the risk of injury to the ACL. Let’s talk about the ways we can keep your ACL healthy and keep you on your feet.
What is the Anterior Cruciate Ligament?
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament is one of the four major ligaments in the knee joint and is located in the middle of the knee and is attached to the femur and the tibia. The ACL is an extremely strong and fibrous ligament that provides stability and support to the knee joint. It also protects the knee by helping to prevent excessive rotation or movement of the joint that could cause damage.
The ACL plays a big part in keeping the knee joint properly aligned and prevents the tibia from moving too far forward from the femur, causing serious injury. This allows the knee to move and bear weight efficiently and comfortably. It also prevents the knee from twisting too far laterally or medially, protecting it from painful and debilitating tears and sprains.
Usually, when the ACL is injured, a tear or sprain occurs. This can usually be attributed to a sudden change in direction, like when someone is playing a sport or a direct blow to the knee joint itself.
ACL injuries are usually accompanied by sudden pain, swelling, and a sense of instability inside the knee joint. It is common to also experience a popping sensation inside the knee or even to hear an audible popping sound when the ACL injury occurs. The pain may be so great that you cannot bear any weight on the injured knee.
Injuries involving the ACL can range from a mild sprain that will resolve on its own to a complete tear of the ligament that can require extensive treatment to repair. Depending on the severity of the ACL injury, treatment can range from icing and rest to surgery and extensive physical therapy.
Although an ACL tear used to mean the end of a sports career for athletes that suffer from it, medicine and technology have advanced to restore full functionality and range of motion to even the worst ACL tears. The recovery time is still substantial, with the average between nine and twelve months.
How Do I Prevent an ACL Injury?
After hearing about how long an ACL injury can keep you off your feet, you are probably looking for ways to prevent a future ACL injury. You’re in the right place. Here are our favorite ways to prevent an injury to the ACL.
Take Some Time to Warm Up
Make sure you take time to warm up before doing anything strenuous. Warming up increases your body temperature, improves your circulation, and raises your heart rate, which all work to give the muscles in your body increased blood flow. This helps your body prepare for exercise because the extra blood flow helps make the muscles much more responsive and flexible.
The extra blood flow to your muscles will also raise the temperature of the muscles so that they can contract and relax more quickly. This allows the knee joint to increase the range of motion and reduces the risk of ACL injury. Since many ACL injuries occur due to a sudden stop and change of direction, having muscles that are more responsive can prevent these painful injuries.
Want a great warm-up routine to help prepare your body before an intense workout or sports session? Try our Pre-Sports Warmup Bundle.
Make Sure You Are Using Proper Form
No matter what exercise you are doing, make sure you are maintaining proper alignment and posture so that you protect your knee joint. Make sure you talk to a physical trainer or a coach to ensure you are using safe and proper techniques.
Strengthen Hips and Thighs
The muscles located in the hips and thighs are vital in providing stability to the knee joint. If these muscles are weak or there is a muscle imbalance, the knee joint can become unstable and increase the risk of injuring the ACL.
Strengthening the hip and thigh muscles will go a long way in reducing how much stress is applied to the knee joint. Strong hips and thighs will also help with balance, reducing the risk of falls and awkward landings, which can easily injure the ACL.
Taking the time now to prevent an ACL injury is much better than being sidelined for a year with one. Ensure you protect your ACL by warming up, using proper form, and strengthening the muscles of your hips and thighs.