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Preventing ACL Injuries


WRITTEN BY: Sports Medicine
Friday, March 13th, 2015

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), located in the knee, helps keep the knee stable. Injuries to the ACL affect both athletes and non-athletes. Symptoms of a tear may include an audible “pop” at the moment of injury, severe swelling, and painful movements. These injuries, common among soccer, football, and basketball players, can be debilitating, painful, and may require surgery.

A complete ACL tear does not heal, so the best “treatment” may be injury prevention. Aaron Mares, MD, of the UPMC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery recommends the following stretches and activities to strengthen your ACL and prevent injuries.

Quad Sets

  • Sit with your legs extended and fully contract the muscles of your front thighs.
  • Hold contractions for 10 seconds.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Straight Leg Raises (Hip Flexion)

  • Lie with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee.
  • Lift your entire leg from the hip so that the heel is about five inches above the floor.
  • Hold this position for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower your leg.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Backward Leg Raises (Hip Extension)

  • Lie on your stomach with legs straight.
  • Lift one leg as high as possible and hold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower the leg.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Hip Abduction

  • Lie on side of uninjured leg, so that the injured leg is on top of the uninjured leg.
  • Lift the injured leg at the hip away from the body.
  • Lift the leg as high as possible and hold for five to 10 seconds, then slowly lower the leg.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Hip Adduction

  • Lie on side of injured leg, with uninjured leg bent at the knee and foot flat on the floor.
  • Lift the injured leg at the hip toward the other leg.
  • Hold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower the leg.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

Half-Knee Bends

  • Stand with feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Slowly lower the body weight by bending the knees.
  • Do not perform a full squat, but rather stop at about half of the full squat position and then fully extend the knees.
  • If there is pain before achieving the half-squat position, stop downward travel at that point.
  • Repeat 10 times for three sets.

If you experience pain or difficulty with these exercises, please consult your doctor. To learn more about ACL injuries and treatment at UPMC Orthopaedic Surgery, call 412-687-3900.

Sports Medicine

UPMC Sports Medicine is the region’s largest and most experienced program dedicated to treating, training, and inspiring athletes at levels, in all sports. Our physicians, surgeons, physical therapists, athletic trainers, sports nutrition, and sports performance experts are dedicated to helping athletes and active people recover from injuries, and even prevent them. Read More