The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the better-known ligaments in the body. It is a major stabilizing ligament of the knee, comprised of three twisting bands. The ACL works closely with the muscles of the knee, especially the hamstring, to stabilize the knee joint.
An ACL injury can be a season-ending injury. Recovery may take surgery, therapy and rehabilitation. ACL injuries are more common in sports such as basketball that require jumping, running and cutting or pivot-shift movements. These injuries are also more common in female athletes, according to recent studies.
An athlete can suffer an ACL injury with a contact or non-contact movement. Bad landing technique that involves planting and twisting the knee is the most common non-contact movement resulting in an ACL injury. Athletes who have suffered an ACL injury commonly describe feeling a “pop” and the knee shifting when the injury occurs. Usually ACL tears produce excessive and rapid swelling.
An athlete who suffers this type of injury should be first evaluated by a licensed athletic trainer or physician to determine if the ACL may be the cause. To control swelling, it is important to ice, elevate and compress with an elastic ACE wrap as quickly as possible.
Proper technique and conditioning can help prevent an ACL injury. Consider these preventive measures:
- Participate in preseason conditioning for your sport to improve agility, learn better body control and increase strength.
- Practice and use proper form for pivoting and landing.
- Be aware of environmental conditions such as playing surface and weather and prepare accordingly.
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