Understanding ACL Injuries

performance trainingNo one wants to have any knee injury, but one of the most devastating of all knee injuries in athletes is the ACL tear.

This injury is close to my heart as it ended my gymnastics career as I entered college in 1984.

Fortunately, it allowed me to learn first-hand some of the ideas and principles I would use for my future career as a physical therapist.

Due to increased sport participation and a predisposition for ACL injuries, the incidence of female athletes tearing ACL’s has increased at an alarming rate over the last 30 years!

ACL injuries occur most often in non-contact sports like soccer, basketball, cheerleading, gymnastics, lacrosse and basketball where athletes cut, turn, jump and change direction suddenly.

Females are at a higher risk than males for a number of reasons including 1) bone structure: that cannot be changed, but may be altered by using 1) orthotics; 2) hormones: which we cannot change; and 3) poor training: which we CAN CHANGE!

A physical therapist can assess an athlete in the areas of speed, power, balance, landing technique, flexibility, and strength. Your therapist can perform an initial overall screening to determine an individual’s risk of injury.

Some of the key issues that contribute to the risk of an ACL tear are weakness in the quadriceps, hamstrings, hip muscles, calf muscles and core control.

Knowing how to land from a hop or a jump is also crucial to avoiding that ACL tear.

Once a physical therapist evaluates the risk and educates the athlete, it is practice that makes the difference.

And, as most gymnasts know, “practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”

That is where a performance coach can help.

Sport coaches know how to train athletes to perform their skills well,  but a performance coach knows how to train an athlete to move correctly and efficiently.

This will not only help avoid injury, but will result in an athlete who is stronger, faster and more explosive with his or her skills.

Natalie Conway, PT, MPT, OCS, ATC is the Regional Director of the Gloucester locations of Tidewater Physical Therapy, which includes a clinic at Gloucester Point, on Main Street in Gloucester Courthouse and a Tidewater Performance Center.