Every athlete knows someone who has suffered a serious knee injury while playing a sport. ACL injuries are keeping athletes out of their sport up to 1 year, and costs to recover from an ACL injury are estimated at $15000-$25000. As an athlete, parent, or coach you have to determine if you, your child, or your team is at risk for a serious knee injury. At last, we have determined 10 ways to discover if you are at a higher risk for an ACL knee injury.
1. Male or Female? Studies have determined that females experience a knee injury at a rate of 4-6 times greater than males in similar cutting sports.
2. What age are you? Research has determined that girls from early to late puberty are at greater risk for injury as they show decreased neuromuscular control of the knee with landing from a jump movement. (Hewett et al. JB&JS, 2004)
3. What sport do you play? Basketball and soccer athletes experience the highest rate of serious knee injuries. Girls in these sports display the highest injury rates.
4. Does your sport require a jump? Recent study estimated that 70% of all ACL injuries occur when landing from a jump. (Boden et al. Orthopedics, 2000)
5. Do your knees cave in when landing from a jump or when cutting? Excessive knee valgus (knees coming together) can be a cause for ACL injury.
6. Do you have a dominant leg that you use with your sport? Research has determined that the dominant leg has a greater valgus (caves inward) knee when landing from a jump. (Ford et al. ACSM, 2003)
7. Are your hamstrings weak? The hamstrings act as a dynamic restraint to ACL injury. Most athletes display a significant overdevelopment of the quads compared to the hamstrings.
8. Are your other joints lax? Hypermobility of your other joints may be a precursor for ACL injury. Check the mobility of your knee, elbow, and pinky finger.
9. Can you balance on one leg? If you have to touch down with the other foot or your knee caves in you are at a greater risk for ACL injury. ACL injuries often occur when landing on one leg or cutting off one leg. The athlete needs to dynamically stabilize the knee to prepare for an injury free season.
10. Can you land a jump softly? If you land a jump from a 12-18 inch box with a loud thump, you are having difficulty decreasing the forces of landing–increasing your risk for ACL injuries.
If you fall into any of the above risk factors, you need to immediately start an ACL injury prevention program. Injury prevention programs have been shown to reduce several of the risk factors listed above. The program should have an emphasis on strengthening/ stabilization exercises, plyometric exercises, and agility training.