Sports Medicine

July 18, 2016

How to Prevent an ACL Tear


Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears can cause chronic pain and make it difficult to bend or move your affected knee. Knowing how to prevent an ACL tear can help lower your risk for this type of injury.

ACL tears are among the most common knee injuries. They occur when the anterior cruciate ligament, which helps stabilize your knee, is partially or fully torn. ACL tears can cause considerable pain and impair flexibility, which can keep you from playing sports, participating in physical activities, and impact your quality of life. In many cases, surgery is needed to repair the damaged ligament and make the knee stable again. You can lower your risk by learning how to prevent an ACL tear.

Strengthen and Stretch
One of the most effective ways to reduce your risk of ACL tears is by making the muscles that support your knee joints stronger. Strengthening the muscles in your hips and thighs can also help prevent these injuries. Doing stretches lowers your risk of ACL tears as well by ensuring that your muscles, ligaments, and other parts of your knee joints stay flexible. Stretching your hip joints and thighs is also important in order to prevent partial or full tears. Keep in mind that you should always stretch before and after playing sports or working out. This helps warm up your muscles for the activity and reduce muscle fatigue after physical exertion, which makes you less likely to have a knee injury.

Practice Safe Maneuvers
Twisting, landing, and jumping can all result in a partial or full ACL tear when they are not done correctly. Whether you run for cardio workouts, play tennis, or participate in another type of sport or physical activity, knowing how to perform these maneuvers safely is essential for preventing ACL tears.

  • Be mindful of jumping and landing: Keep your knees straight when you jump and let them bend a little while you land. Avoid turning your knees in while jumping or landing, since this can raise your risk of tearing your ACL.
  • Practice changing directions safely: If you play basketball or another sport that involves making sudden turns and twists, practice doing these safely before playing. As with jumping and landing, make sure your knees do not turn in while you are moving.
  • Work on balance: Improving your balance can help your knee joints handle sudden movements more effectively. Do exercises that help you work on your balance, such as stretching one leg straight out behind you while raising the arm on the opposite side up straight.

Know Your Limits
Being aware of how much physical activity you can handle is an important part of preventing ACL tears. Whether you participate in a regular workout routine or play sports, your body needs time to recover. Make sure you are getting enough sleep, no matter how busy you are, in order to give your body time to recover from physical activity. If you play sports or do strenuous workouts, give yourself rest days between these activities.

You can also lower your risk of an ACL tear by switching between higher impact and lower impact fitness routines. When you do not allow your body to rest, you can end up making careless movements that put you at a higher risk of injury, such as twisting your body in ways you are not used to or making sudden stops or turns that are hard on your knees.

If you have experienced an ACL tear, contact Arkansas Surgical Hospital at (877) 918-7020 for an appointment with one of our renowned orthopedic surgeons to learn more about your treatment options.

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