Q: [All Ages] “My daughter likes to play jumping and turning sports like soccer, lacrosse and volleyball. How can I protect her knees?”
A: The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is a major supporter of the knee during sport activities that involve jumping, turning and changing direction. The ACL also stands for “all too common ligament injury”—one that can take months to recover and increases the risk of early joint destruction.
So how can you reduce your worry? The easiest way to is spend 10-15 minutes three times a week doing an ACL injury prevention program.
These are some key parts of an ACL injury prevention program:
- Involves strengthening leg and core muscles along with sports-specific agility training to improve coordination, balance
- Teaches players how to fall with less risk for major injury
- Regular physical education two to three times per week
- Educates on techniques that avoid high-risk knee positions
What exactly are those high-risk knee positions? The inward rotating position of the right knee (called dynamic valgus) puts abnormal stress on all knee structures and especially the ACL. The goals of a prevention program are to learn to land and turn softly with bent knees that don’t rotate inward.
This can be achieved during the usual warm-up prior to training and may include activities such as:
- Active stretching and controlled partner contacts
- Running exercises at moderate/high speed combined with planting/ cutting movements
Visiting with a sports medicine specialist can also help identify unique risks for ACL injuries and create an individualized training and prevention program.
Reduce the potential of spending months off the field, the constant worry of re-injury, and a real scary concern of early-onset knee arthritis.
Parents and coaches—add value to your team and club while protecting your greatest assets: young athletes.
Dr. Chris Koutures is a board-certified pediatric and sports medicine specialist who practices at ActiveKidMD. He is a physician for USA Volleyball, U.S. Figure Skating , Cal State Fullerton Intercollegiate Athletics, and Chapman University Dance Department. Follow him on Twitter (@dockoutures).