Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, are fairly common, affecting hundreds of thousands of Americans each year. When you injure your ACL — a ligament in your knee — the ligament over-stretches or tears, often during athletic activity.
Your ACL is located deep within the middle part of your knee. An ACL injury can cause significant knee pain, especially when you try to put weight on your leg. It can also sideline you from the sports, activities, and daily lifestyle we all enjoy.
ACL injuries can be successfully addressed with various treatments, ranging from crutches and braces to physical therapy and surgery. However, the best approach is to avoid having an ACL injury in the first place.
At Princeton Sports and Family Medicine, P.C. of Lawrenceville, New Jersey, our sports medicine and primary care providers believe in doing their best to help our patients avoid injuries. With that in mind, our providers would like to share the following steps for protecting yourself from harming your ACL.
Step #1: Understand Your Risk
Although anyone can experience an ACL injury, athletes have a higher risk than those who don’t engage in athletic pursuits. ACL tears are most likely to occur in people who play soccer, football, basketball or skiing.
In addition, more women than men experience ACL tears. And although people of any age can injure their ACL, tears are most common in athletes ages 15-25.
If you are in a high-risk group for ACL injuries, mention it to our providers during your next appointment. Your provider can help you understand your risk and can let you know if you have any other health conditions or injury history that may further increase your risk.
Step #2: Stop if You Have Symptoms
If you feel pain in your knee, resist the urge to ignore it and power through the pain because it could make your possible injury worse. Common symptoms of an ACL injury include a popping sound in your knee at the moment of injury, as well as pain and swelling within 6 hours of injury.
Keeping weight off the injured knee, rest, ice, and elevation can help relieve initial symptoms. If discomfort persists, schedule a visit with one of our providers or a trip to the emergency room.
Step #3: Take ACL-Protecting Precautions
Research has found that taking certain precautions may reduce the risk of ACL tears. Those include:
- Strengthening certain leg muscles with strength training and weight lifting
- Using proper biomechanics for your sport/daily activites
- Having an experienced provider or therapist check you for proper form
- Performing a variety of activities to help prevent overuse
Step #4: Participate in and Adhere to an ACL Prevention Program
Many schools and teams offer athletes access to specially designed ACL prevention programs. These multifaceted programs offer a range of approaches to protect athletes from ACL injuries. If your team or school offers such a program, take advantage of it, and follow its recommendations. Close adherence could help protect your knees.
If you are an individual athlete without access to an institutional ACL prevention program, talk with our providers or one of our personal trainers about specific training regimens you can pursue to protect your ACL.
Taking Prevention Seriously
Our providers are here to help you when you experience pain or injury. But we also want to help you avoid getting hurt in the first place. We invite you to reach out to discuss sports-specific prevention strategies designed specifically for you.
To schedule an appointment, call our office at (609) 248-6520 or request an appointment online.