Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries occur far too often in sports, which is why it’s crucial that athletes know the steps they can take to reduce their risk for non-contact ACL tears. Research suggests that an athlete is at risk for a tear when the hamstring group is too weak in relation to the quadriceps muscle group. In order to decrease this risk, it’s important that athletes increase strength in both of these muscle groups, as well as correct asymmetries between the left and right side. Additionally, most athletes are unaware of how to “hinge” at the hips. A hip hinge movement pattern is essential to taking off, landing from a jump, and changing direction. An improper hip hinge results in a loss of power and possibly increases the risk for injury.
At The Micheli Center we work on the above issues, as well as many other risk factors that lead to ACL tears, to keep athletes safe on the field. Below are some effective exercises to help reduce the risk of an ACL injury.
1. Gluteal Activation
Since your glute muscles act as stabilizers for your hips and torsos, it’s important to “fire” up these muscles prior to exercise.
2. Single Leg Step Ups
Single leg exercise allows the athlete to correct muscular strength asymmetries. The step up is an excellent exercise to improve quadricep strength.
3. Eccentric Hamstring Lowers
This exercise provides eccentric loading (lengthening contraction) to the hamstring group which is thought to improve strength of the posterior thigh over time.
4. Single Leg Hops
A fair amount of ACL injuries occur while landing on a single leg. This exercise is an easy way for an athlete to learn how to appropriate land and absorb ground reaction forces. These can be done with lateral movement, forward and back, or in place.
5. Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
Considered a hip-dominant hamstring exercise, this movement is essential for an athlete to learn how to effectively hinge the hips rather than rely on the knee joint itself.
A plank, when done properly, is an effective tool for strengthening an athlete’s core. An active core should be present in every athlete’s movement.
To learn even more about how to reduce your risk for an ACL injury, check out our ACL Injury Prevention Program.