If you are a female athlete – particularly one who participates in jumping and pivoting sports like basketball and soccer – it’s important to know that females are 2 – 10 times more likely than males to injure their ACL (anterior cruciate ligament).
There are several reasons for this, including body structure and issues with knee alignment and excessive side-to-side motion during athletic movements. Of course, a female’s wider pelvis cannot be changed. So, when we look at prevention strategies for ACL injuries in women, we focus on training, such as
- Making the best or most effective use of movement patterns
- Increasing lower extremity and core strength
- Improving cutting and landing techniques
Assess Patterns, Improve Mechanics Before Strength Training
Prior to training, your movement pattern must be analyzed because using strength exercises with a dysfunctional pattern will simply reinforce the problem.
For example, if you perform a lunge pattern perfectly with your right foot forward but have difficulty maintaining balance and trunk position with the left foot forward, you are at a higher risk of injury due to this lack of symmetry. You first need corrective exercises intended to take lunge mechanics and symmetry to a higher, more balanced level.
Once this is achieved, you can begin a well-designed strength training program to reinforce the proper movements. It should include variations of squat, lunge and deadlift patterns for the lower body. Also, core exercises – such as front and side planks and medicine ball/cable chops and lifts – will build torso strength that transfers to sport skills.
Improve Landing and Cutting with Drills
Poor landing and cutting movements can also increase the risk for ACL injuries. If you participate in a prevention program, it’s important to work with your coach or athletic trainer on jumping/landing and cutting drills. These include “soft landing” exercises focused on proper lower body alignment and torso position. Once you can perform basic jumps with proper technique, multiple jumps and direction changes can be added to intensify the drill and to make it more sport specific.
1-2-3 Approach to Preventing ACL Injuries
To sum it all up, I recommend that female athletes who participate in any sport that includes jumping, cutting and pivoting take part in an injury prevention program that includes these three components:
- Assessment and correction of risky movement patterns. This should be handled by a qualified professional.
- Implementation of a well-designed and balanced strength program.
- Practice of sport-specific jumping and change-of-direction drills that focus on proper mechanics.
The best part is that this approach will not only reduce your risk of injury, it will also enhance your sport performance! Get started today. If you live and play sports in Canton or elsewhere in Stark County or Northeast Ohio, contact Mercy Sports Medicine to find out how our certified professionals can help you stay safe and improve your game!