The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), located in the knee, helps keep the knee stable. Injuries to the ACL affect both athletes and non-athletes.\nSymptoms 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.\nA 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.\nExercises to Prevent ACL Injury\nQuad Sets\n\nSit with your legs extended and fully contract the muscles of your front thighs.\nHold contractions for 10 seconds.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nStraight Leg Raises (Hip Flexion)\n\nLie with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee.\nLift your entire leg from the hip so that the heel is about five inches above the floor.\nHold this position for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower your leg.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nBackward Leg Raises (Hip Extension)\n\nLie on your stomach with legs straight.\nLift one leg as high as possible and hold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower the leg.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nHip Abduction\n\nLie on side of uninjured leg, so that the injured leg is on top of the uninjured leg.\nLift the injured leg at the hip away from the body.\nLift the leg as high as possible and hold for five to 10 seconds, then slowly lower the leg.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nHip Aduction\n\nLie on side of injured leg, with uninjured leg bent at the knee and foot flat on the floor.\nLift the injured leg at the hip toward the other leg.\nHold for five to 10 seconds and then slowly lower the leg.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nHalf-Knee Bends\n\nStand with feet shoulder-width apart.\nSlowly lower the body weight by bending the knees.\nDo not perform a full squat, but rather stop at about half of the full squat position and then fully extend the knees.\nIf there is pain before achieving the half-squat position, stop downward travel at that point.\nRepeat 10 times for three sets.\n\nIf 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.