ACL Series Part 1: How Can ACL Tears be Prevented?

One of the most common injuries in people around the world is a ruptured ACL. Although there have been great advancements in the options for ACL reconstruction, it would be better to prevent the injury in the first place. Most people are starting to realize that doing leg strengthening programs can drastically reduce the number of people that are sidelined because of an injury like this one.

Many coaches are now realizing that there are ways to keep their athletes happy and healthy and reduce the chance of one of them being sidelined because of a torn ACL. Doctor Walt Lowe of Houston Sports Medicine says that it has been studied that athletes who spend ten minutes strengthening their legs everyday have reduced their risk from “6:1 to 2:1”. It makes people wonder why some coaches are still not implementing prevention programs into their practices.

There are many programs that have been tested and have shown positive results in athletes. One of the most basic programs is the PEP Program, which was introduced by Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation. This program doesn’t even need to be done everyday, the Santa Monica Medicine Foundation says it only requires an athlete to perform it “three times a week”. There is more than enough time in a week for athletes to do the PEP Program on their own or during practice.

The PEP Program consists of five areas that focus on strengthening different parts of the leg. The first area is just a warm up, trying to get your legs ready for the rest of the program. At this area an athlete should jog from sideline to sideline, then run the same distance and finally back pedal. After they complete all three parts of the first area then the athlete can move on to the next area. The second area is for the athlete to stretch. After you have warmed up your legs it is extremely important to stretch, just like running and stretching before a game or practice.

After all the athletes have stretched and their muscles feel loose they can move on to the third area, strengthening. According to Sports MD, this area is especially important because many ACL tears occur because “the knee is very susceptible to an overuse injury because of muscle imbalance”. Athletes must be sure that they perform lunges and toe raises in this area because these exercise the quadriceps and hamstrings, the two muscles closely associated with ACL tears.

The next area involves plyometrics. For female athletes this is especially important because, hopefully, it will teach them how to jump correctly while strengthening their legs. Female athletes tend to land wait their legs not flexed and in valgus, meaning that their legs angle in towards each other. During this section the athletes jump forward, backward, and side to side, all while making sure that they land with their legs bent to put more strain on their muscles and less on their ligaments.

The last area of this program is agility, athletes work on decelerating, accelerating, and changing directions. Most ACL injuries that occur are because someone tries to change direction and their leg hyperextends. By training athletes to perform a three-step deceleration before changing directions, thousands of ACL tears could have been prevented.

The PEP Program is only one of the many programs that have been created to strengthen athlete’s legs. If this program does not seem to fit the way that some athletes work, then all a coach has to do is search ACL prevention programs and thousands of options will be available to them.

Erin Tucker