ACL injuries pop up in the news on a regular basis. We've all seen the stomach turning collisions in sports where the leg goes sideways, and for many of us those images are what we associate with ACL injuries. However, over 70% of ACL injuries that occur are "Non-Contact" injuries. Non-Contact means that there is no outside force acting on the knee to cause the tear or sprain. The bad news here is that ACL injuries can happen even in sports and activities where there is minimal amounts of contact.
The good news is we can prevent a significant portion of these injuries from occurring through preventive screening and exercise. In their research Sigward and Golden identified internal and external risk factors for ACL injuries. External risk factors are playing surface, shoes, environmental conditions and other players. We can not change the risks presented from external factors, they are for the most part inherent parts of the sports that we choose to play. The internal factors are the ones we analyze; the bio-mechanical and neuromuscular functions of the athlete. What do these practically look like? The position of the knee during landing, quadriceps and glute strength, muscle patterning and ankle dorsiflexion are just a few of the areas that need to be analyzed when determining the risk of future injury.
Often times we associate high skill or overall strength with a lowered risk of injury. Unfortunately this is not always the case. The way the body carries out locomotor skills and movements significantly determines the amount of stress placed on the knee joint during activity.
A thorough assessment should evaluate bio-mechanical alignment, neuormuscular patterns (the way the body delivers movement) and strength factors. If there are significant risks identified the screen is able to highlight the area of need for the practitioner to target with strengthening exercises, mobility training or movement re-patterning to mitigate the risks moving forward.
The preventive exercises can look different for everyone. For some it will be a matter of improving strength in the glutes and quadriceps to allow the body to hold the positions it is trying to achieve during athletic competition. Others might need to spend more time on proprioceptive and balance tasks. Each individual will be different and this is what a proper screen can help you identify. The corrective exercises often can be added as part of your warm-up routine and do not need to alter your current training program. Instead, by properly activating your nervous system and helping to prep the weak muscles, the efficiency of your regular training program will likely increase.
So why not take the time to have your assessment done? Many of the risk factors are "silent". It's not a screaming pain or sudden drop in performance that will alert you. They are small errors in our movement patterns that over time or in the wrong situation, can eventually lead to large scale injury. If you have questions please take the time to send us a message. Our staff is happy to provide you with any information you may be looking for whether you're looking for a screen or simply some guidance with your training.