lunges with weights

A torn ACL can be a devastating injury for athletes and active individuals. ACL tears may require surgery to repair the knee and give you back full mobility to your knee.

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) runs diagonally down the middle of the knee. It helps control the motion of your knee and prevents the shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone. ACL injuries and tears are not only painful, but can also limit performance in sports in the future. Whether you’ve been hurt before or not, it’s important to build up your strength and stability to prevent ACL tears or other knee injuries.

How ACL Injuries Happen

An ACL tear or injury most often happens to people who play sports such as basketball, football, skiing, and soccer. They happen more often in women than men. Doctors have many theories, but they don’t know for sure why ACL injuries are more common in women and girls than boys.

The ACL can be sprained or torn. It usually happens from:

  • Stopping suddenly
  • Cutting to the side
  • Landing awkwardly

Prevent ACL and Knee Injuries with Exercise

Whether you’re a serious athlete or wanting to play pick-up games on the weekend, it’s important to strengthen your knee. An ACL injury will take you out of the game for a long time.

Preventing ACL injuries usually involves a combination of plyometric, balance, and strength and stability exercises to improve nerve and muscle control in the knee.

You may want to work with a personal trainer to develop a program specific to your sport. But some general exercises used to prevent ACL injuries include:

  • Squats
  • Leg presses
  • Lunges
  • Side to side jumps
  • Single leg dead lifts
  • Plank with leg lifts

Start with basic ACL exercises and add more difficulty as you get stronger, such as moving up to jump squats. Remember to stretch; try hamstring, quadricep, hip flexor and IT Band stretches.

Perform these ACL exercises three to five times a week for at least six weeks before the season begins.

Have you had an ACL injury? If you have any questions about rehabilitating your knee after a severe injury, speak with the experts at UPMC Sports Medicine.