If you are an athlete, chances are you’re well aware of your ACL. Injuries to the ACL affect over 150,000 people (mostly athletes) a year. ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament. This ligament is located in the center of your knee.
An ACL tear is one of the most common injuries athletes face. It is one of the most detrimental injuries an athlete can experience, putting a pause on physical activity and sometimes halting it forever. What’s worse, recovery time for an ACL tear ranges anywhere from six to nine months.
Avoiding an ACL Tear
Your knee’s anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) crosses with the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL). The two ligaments cross each other in the same way you might interlace your index and middle finger to wish for good luck.
Women are seven times more likely to suffer an ACL tear than men. Athletes who participate in non-contact sports such as basketball, soccer, and long-distance running are also susceptible to ACL injuries. Anyone who lives an active lifestyle is susceptible to an ACL tear. However, there are things you can do to help prevent an ACL tear from occurring in the first place.
- Targeted Strength Training — Weak bones and ligaments are often prone to injury, especially in athletes. By implementing high-intensity jumping and other exercises that focus on quadriceps and hamstrings, you can increase your ACL strength.
- Steady Yourself — Many ACL tears come from sports that require the athlete to make quick changes in direction. In soccer or tennis, you are constantly shifting your balance from one leg to another. This is a major culprit in ACL tears. When the body is well-balanced, ACL injuries are less likely to occur.
- Stretch — The importance of proper stretching can not be stressed enough when it comes to sports or physical activity. Stretching warms up your body for exercise. Warming up with various, well-targeted leg stretches before long periods of strenuous activity loosens your muscles and ligaments. Pay close attention to the muscles in your thighs and ankles. These tend to be parts of the body that can twist out of shape most easily, contributing to an ACL tear.
- Cool Down and Rest — The cool down after exercising is just as important as the warm up. Make sure to take the time to ease your body into its general state of movement. Elongate those muscles with easy lunges or a short walk. Additionally, drink plenty of water and get a good night’s sleep to help your body recover after a strenuous workout.
Identifying ACL Tear Symptoms
Even the most conscientious, responsible athletes are at risk for an ACL tear. If you experience an ACL tear you’ll likely know it immediately. You may hear a distinctive “pop” sound coming from your knee. This may also be accompanied by a popping sensation - such as a crackling feeling beneath the skin.
Undoubtedly, ACL tears come with extreme pain. When they occur, they can literally knock a person off their feet. Inflammation (swelling) of the knee occurs within a few hours. You may feel a stiffness that keeps you from putting weight on your leg. If you experience any of these symptoms and they do not clear up within a day or two you should consult with a medical professional.
Though an ACL tear can be a major setback in an athlete’s career, it doesn’t have to be a career-ending injury. The staff at BASS Medical are here to help if you require care for an ACL tear or other sports-related injury. Our surgeons have experience performing reconstructive surgery for ACL tears and other knee problems. If you are experiencing knee pain or immobility in your knees contact our team today for a consultation.