Rehabilitation Services Blog

March 25, 2019

Is your youth at risk for a knee injury?

Injury prevention is a hot topic for both youth and active aging adults. Specifically, ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injury prevention has been highlighted within the rehab and fitness communities. In recent years, athletes as young as 5 to 14 years of age have higher incidence of ACL injury and reconstruction.1 In fact, studies show 70% of all ACL tears are non-contact injuries.1 Meaning, the injury occurred while pivoting, changing directions, jumping, or cutting during play. As game play continues to get more competitive, injury prevention in youth should be at the top of everyone’s list.
 
Why is the ACL so important? 
There are four ligaments, including the ACL, that stabilize and support the knee. When torn, the ACL typically requires surgical repair and a lengthy rehabilitation process. In general, a full recovery and return to sport can take six to 12 months with physical therapy.  
 
Is your youth at risk for an ACL tear? 
There are multiple factors a physical therapist looks at when assessing risk for ACL injury. The most important are jumping and landing mechanics.

The photo below displays good versus poor mechanics jumping:

Good mechanics
Good mechanics occur when the knees are in line with the feet throughout the take-off and landing. The knees must also stay in line or behind the toes (exceptions may apply).
 
Poor mechanics
As shown above, poor mechanics occur when the knees roll inward compared to the feet and when the knees fall in front of the toes during both take-off and landing a jump.
 
What can I do to prevent an ACL? 

Good question! Research shows improving body mechanics, strengthening the core and hip, as well as keeping the legs limber help prevent the majority of non-contact ACL injuries. There are a multitude of exercises to help. A Palomar Health physical therapist can tailor a work out regime specific toward your needs. In general, focusing on specific muscles involved in jumping, landing, cutting, and running are essential.

Here are four exercises that are my favorite to prevent ACL injury:

1. Squats (bilateral and unilateral)


2. Jumps (forward and lateral)


3. Hamstring curls (bilateral and unilateral)


4. SB walk outs

 

If you are performing these four exercises regularly to improve your body mechanics and gain adequate strength throughout your legs, your risk for an ACL injury can be reduced up to 80%.1, 2
 
For more information and details, please reference the links and research studies below.
 
References
1. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2018/208/8/increasing-rates-anterior-cruciate-ligament-reconstruction-young-australians
2. https://www.mja.com.au/journal/2018/208/8/increasing-rates-anterior-cruciate-ligament-reconstruction-young-australian

Ashley McCue, PT, DPT