From competitive athletes to weekend warriors, we all know both the benefits as well as the dangers to our bodies while performing exercise and sports related activities. Few are as nagging, and potentially devastating, as knee injuries. In particular, damage done to the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL).
We have all heard of the ACL before, but what is it that it truly does? The ACL is one of the 4 major ligaments in the knee along with the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL). Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL), and Lateral Collateral Ligament (LCL). The ACL prevents excessive forward movement of the femur, the upper leg bone, on the tibia, one of the lower leg bones. Unlike muscles which contract and shorten a muscle to create movement, a ligament is meant to prevent excessive movement of the joint. The million dollar question is why is the ACL such an integral component of the knee function? Most sports these days require quick starts and stops, jumping and landing. This puts tremendous strain on the knee. During these activities, the ACL is strained to prevent the forward movement on the tibia. This ligament becomes overstressed when the quadriceps and hamstrings are not strong enough to stabilize the knee with sharp cutting movements and jumping during sports activity. We have all seen some of our favorite athletes land on the disabled list after they tear their ACL. With surgery required it can keep even a professional athlete out of action for 9-12 months while they are rehabbing from their injury.
So how do we prevent our young athletes from being stricken with this serious injury? The answer is implementing the proper ACL prevention protocol into an athlete’s regimen both prior to a game and/or practice. Parents, coaches, and athletes alike should be well versed in the proper static and ballistic warm-up techniques in order to prevent an ACL from ending an athlete’s season. Orthopedic physical therapists are highly trained in proper ACL prevention methods and can provide, not only to individual athletes, but also entire teams and coaching staffs the methods on how to minimize and athlete’s risk of injury. Take the time to contact your local physical therapist to keep the athlete in your life off the rehab table and on the field!
Michael Dow, MSPT, received his degree from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT. The founder of Amity Physical Therapy in Woodbridge, he has been recognized by the U.S. Health and Human Services for his work with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. He works with patients of all ages, pediatrics to geriatrics, as well as local high school and college athletes. Michael can be reached at 203-389-4593. www.amitypt.com. Amity Physical Therapy is one of the fastest growing practices of its kind in the New Haven area, now with offices in Woodbridge, Hamden and Branford.