Tips for ACL Injury Prevention

The Hospital for Special Surgery recently established the HSS Sports Medicine Injury Prevention Program, a program aimed at preventing sports-related injuries in young athletes. The program is funded through a generous $2.76 million grant to the Hospital for Special Surgery from the Dinan Family Foundation. Under the leadership of program directors, Dr. Robert Marx and Dr. James Kinderknecht, the main goals of the program are to 1) review best practices based on recent research and 2) to raise awareness about injury prevention.

The first phase of the new program will focus on Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury prevention. ACL injuries are common amongst young athletes. There are around 150,000 in the U.S. per year, and their treatment costs total an estimated $646 million. These injuries also result in missed playing time as players recover from surgery, and there may be long-term costs as athletes with ACL injuries are at greater risk of developing arthritis later in life. Athletes in sports where there is more cutting and pivoting such as basketball, soccer, and football are more prone to ACL injuries, and females are more susceptible to injuries than males playing the same sport.

A combination of strength and balance training can be effective in reducing risk of ACL injury. Plyometrics, balance, and strengthening/stability exercises focus on developing proper nerve/muscle control in the knee. Plyometric exercises include jumping exercises that increase muscular power. Balance training, such as balancing on a balance board, can also help build knee strength, and strength/stability exercises such as jumping and landing on one leg will increase knee stability. Core strengthening through exercises such as planks can also be beneficial. These exercises not only prevent ACL injury but also shin splints and ankle sprains. Prevention is key in helping athletes to keep playing at their full potential.

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