What Keeps Even Pro Athletes at Bay?

ACL patient playing soccerGuest Blogger: Michael Brown, MD, Orthopedic/Sports Medicine

Athletes, like soccer player Jenna Thomas, cower at the mention of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. Depending on how badly it’s torn, the injury can put an athlete out for an entire season—even Tom Brady had to sit out a season in 2008 because of his ACL injury. Your ACL is one of four ligaments that work to stabilize the knee and is essential in starting to run, turning and stopping quickly. With that said, it’s easy to image that if that ligament fails then things can go wrong quickly.

Who’s at Risk for an ACL Injury?

ACL injuries are caused by a sudden twisting motion and while most athletes are at risk, female athletes seem to be the ones most susceptible. According to the National Collegiate Athletic Association, females are about three times more likely to get an ACL injury than males. This could be due to the higher estrogen levels that cause the ligaments to be looser and provide less protection. It could also be due to the fact that females tend to have smaller ACL’s than males, leaving them more susceptible.

How Do I Prevent an ACL Injury?

When you’re an athlete, no one wants to be out for an entire season or have an injury that requires surgery, so how do you prevent it? It comes down to practice and proper form. Think stretch, strength, balance.Try the following exercises to prep your body against an ACL injury before it happens.

  • Jogging – Run forward, backwards and sideways.
  • Squats – Don’t let your knees go over your toes.
  • Walking lunges
  • Core – Try planks, side planks, crunches.
  • Jumps – Keep your knees bent, chest high, and use your core strength to land softly and with control.

Do these exercises to get your body familiar with the movement until it’s second nature. Remember it’s about quality of your form, not how fast you can get through your exercises.

Learn more about sports medicine at UMass Memorial Medical Center.

  3 comments for “What Keeps Even Pro Athletes at Bay?

  1. cyndir
    April 10, 2017 at 10:00 am

    I had an ACL injury from a fall off a ladder (another safety story!) in late 2015. My knee was repaired by Dr. DeAngelis and his great surgical team in the spring of 2016, and I couldn’t be happier. The doctor had me doing physical therapy before and after the surgery, and the recovery has been outstanding. Although initially I was a bit fearful of reinjury, I can now do all of the activities I was doing before the surgery (hiking, biking, running, climbing, gardening, snowshoeing, CC skiing, etc.) and my repaired knee feels no different from the other. It’s best to avoid the injury to begin with (as above in the article), but the Orthopedics surgical team here at UMass Memorial is just outstanding if you need them. Also, thanks to the donor of the tendon used to repair my knee. Organ/tissue donors are very important.

    • April 10, 2017 at 11:40 am

      Thanks for the kind words. We’ll be sure to share with our orthopedic team.

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