I saw a woman working out yesterday with a knee brace. She said she had torn her knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I see this scenario quite often with women exercisers, especially athletes.
A knee ACL injury is the most common injury affecting the knee joint. About 70% of all serious knee injuries involve damage to the ACL. And, about 80% of these injuries occur without any contact. There are some training techniques you can use to lessen the risk of this injury. The knee ACL is located within the capsule of the knee and connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). Pictured below is a torn knee ACL:
Females injure their knee ACLs at six times the rate of males. Females usually demonstrate a lower hamstring to quadricep ratio. This means they typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males. They also demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males.
Females are typically quadricep dominant athletes/exercisers which means they use their strong quadriceps muscles and do not use their weak hamstrings enough. Strength training for females should be adjusted to adequately strengthen the hamstrings.
3 Tips to Prevent Knee ACL injuries:
1. Most ACL injuries occur when you decelerate, come to a sudden stop or land with improper technique while placing too much stress on your knees. You should dominate the hamstrings, hips and glutes during movement.
2. Your hips are often under-used during sports or intense exercise. Another common mechanical breakdown is when the knees protrude far in front of the feet when decelerating, landing or squatting. This puts undue stress on the knees and often causes injury.
Lateral lunges and lateral bounding teaches you how to move correctly while dominating movement with the hips.
You should also learn proper jumping and landing techniques using exercises such as vertical jumps, broad jumps and depth jumps.
3. Also, when the quadriceps are much stronger than the hamstrings, this can cause an ACL injury. Research has shown that the hamstrings play an important role in stabilizing the knee and protecting the ACL during deceleration.
Try these flexibility and strength exercises for your hamstrings:
Hamstring Flexibility – walking lunges, resistance band eccentric stretch, hamstring PNF Stretch and static stretch (static stretch should be done after workout or game).
Hamstring Strength – lying or standing hamstring machine curl, deadlift, good morning exercise (with or without weights), reverse hamstring curls and glute/hamstring drops.
Surgery is necessary for a tear of the knee ACL. Usually, the tear is repaired by using a part of another healthy ligament to replace the damaged ACL. Rehabiliation for a torn ACL takes about 3-4 months and it takes 8 months or more before the athlete can return to competition.
Read my article on Knee Repair and Rehabilitation
Train properly. Injury prevention is always the best way to go!
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