How to Avoid an ACL Injury or Re-Injury

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Today we’re going to be talking about ACL injury, more specifically, how to prevent an ACL injury from reoccurring again. So, when I say ACL injury, I’m meaning the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee. Unfortunately, I’ve seen many clients that have suffered more than one injury on the same knee due to lack of full recovery and keeping up with a preventative routine.

3 Key Components to Prevent ACL Injury

There are three key componenets that are important to think about when you want to prevent the ACL from being re-injured. One is you want to keep your range of motion healthy. Two, you want to strengthen the muscles around the knee. And three, you want to make sure that you are honoring and understanding the timeline of the injury recovery. Make sure that you’re staying patient and following your doctor’s advice and/or your physical therapist’s advice.

Get Warmed Up

Once you’ve been cleared to begin your life again (basically able to get back into your day-to-day physical activities) you want to make sure that you’re keeping up with a preventative program. This includes a warm up before you begin any strenuous physical activity. Like if you’re going to go on a long hike, or go bike riding, playing basketball, whatever it is that you find fun and playful to do, you want to make sure that this warm-up works your legs basically and the connection of the core with the legs. A thirty-second jog, shuttle run, even backward running are great examples. Get your quads, hips, and hamstrings all warmed up and juicy before you begin the activity that you want to do.

Stretch it Out

Continue to stretch the areas around the knee so that you can keep that range of motion healthy. Make sure that you are stretching your calves, ankles, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, outer thighs, hip flexors, and glutes. Also, stretch to simply keep up with that range of motion to continue to strengthen the areas and the muscle around the knee. A bonus to stretching is that you’re also simultaneously strengthening your ankles, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, outer thighs, and your core.

Preventing an ACL Injury is also About Working on Your Agility

Beyond stretching and strengthening, preventing an ACL injury is about working on your agility. One of the most common agility programs is the plyometric approach, which is about developing strength and speed. It’s typically a more high-intensity approach where the motions create a stretch reflex in the muscle so that the muscles stretch before it contracts. Eventually, when it does contract it contracts with more power. Movements like these, for example, could be things like hops, jumps, or jumping off of a box onto another box that’s higher. Basically they’re exercises that increase your speed and strength so that you can build up that power.

Make Balance a Priority

Stretching and strength movements encourage balance in your body. That is why stretching and strengthening your ankles, calves, are key pieces in preventing injury of your ACL again.

‘Basics’ like standing on one leg, standing on one leg on an uneven surface, and then challenging yourself by doing those with your eyes closed are three ways right off-the-bat to improve balance. Even simply trying to maintain your balance for 45 seconds. Make this a part of your routine after you have originally recovered from your first ACL injury. It’s a matter of keeping up with a good routine to warm up your quads, hamstrings, glutes and activating your core. So, stretching and strengthening are really the biggest supporters on your way to improving your agility and balance. When you’re ready to have that routine in place, I know you will definitely be able to help prevent yourself from re-injuring the ACL again.

Have Patience With Yourself

I truly hope this advice helps you heal and find health stability. That’s where the third part comes in about being patient and understanding the timeline. An ACL injury can take up to a year to fully recover and it’s important to be patient and honor how you feel (that in order) to help prevent re-injury. Oftentimes we jump right back into our lives too quickly without fully recovering from the original injury, therefore, we are definitely more prone to get injured again. Just try to practice patience and embrace an understanding of the ACL Recovery Timeline.

Enjoy Life

Remember, you want to keep your range of motion healthy, you want to strengthen the muscles around the knee, you want to continue to work on your agility and your balance, and you want to be patient and understand the timeline. Honor that, because taking one year to fully recover is going to be easier than getting re-injured again and again. Not allowing yourself a full recovery from that first injury can lead you down a path that prevents the joy you deserve in life.

Take care of yourself and enjoy life. I want you to enjoy life.

Additional ACL Recovery Resources

Lower Extremity Muscle Strength After Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury and Reconstruction

Anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, rehabilitation, and return to play: 2015 update

Patient education: Anterior cruciate ligament injury (Beyond the Basics)

Rehabilitation for Patients Following ACL Reconstruction: A Knee Symmetry Model

Defining Post-Op Goals After ACL Surgery

Simple decision rules can reduce reinjury risk by 84% after ACL reconstruction: the Delaware-Oslo ACL cohort study

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