Ahh March Madness. One of the greatest times of the year in sports, especially if you’re a fan of a failed bracket. Seeds, regions, records, all things we as observers have no control over. Add to that list, injured players, that will affect how our brackets play out (which is obviously super important compared to how that injured player is).
Of all the injuries, one tends to stand out as the scary one that no one wants, and for good reason. The ACL tear. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) attaches from the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (lower leg bone) wrapped with the PCL, the posterior cruciate ligament. The ACL’s job is to prevent the tibia from sliding too far forward underneath the femur. It provides stability for the knee as well as protects the meniscus and cartilage. Most common sports: basketball, soccer and football. Most common population: young females.
So why is it so scary?? Well, first, the most common way the ACL is torn is a noncontact injury. Yup. No one touching the athlete, the athlete can literally tear his/her own ACL from landing, cutting or pushing off in a nonideal way. Go look it up. Actually, don’t do that. It also doesn’t have to be a person playing a sport; it’s not unheard of to have John DunksAlot try something he hasn’t in a while and hear a pop…yikes.
Second, ACL rehab is a long recovery. We’re talking a typical 9 month minimum before return to sport and a lot more complicated than ice and rest. It’s also a loooot of hard work, getting that leg (in a perfect world) as strong as the uninjured one.
So why on earth is this blog trying to make us all afraid of our ACL’s?? That bold sentence up above: the most common population is young females. Young female athletes have as high as 4-8x higher than young male athletes. That’s insane AND frustrating. The purpose of this blog is to bring to light the higher risk of ACL injury that females have and to inform on ways of prevention. You may be asking, can this be prevented?? And the answer is: kind of. This blog will be informing on ways of injury reduction*.
Here's the deal: that nonideal way of landing, cutting or pushing off mentioned above includes the femur rotating internally too much, causing a valgus (fancy name for the knee goes inwards) moment at the knee, usually combined with too much extension at the knee. This occurs due to weak hip muscles that are not controlling the knee’s movements. In other words: the athlete is all gas, no breaks.
Why females? To list a few: Females’ Q angles (the angle from the hip to the knee to the ankle) are larger than males’, predisposing their legs to the dreaded valgus position when landing. Females also tend to have a lot more joint and ligament laxity compared to males. Females’ hamstrings stop developing at the same rate as their quads around age 11, compared to males who have a more balanced quadriceps to hamstring ratio. As we say in the clinic, some of these 17-18 year old females are jumping on 11 year old hamstrings if they don’t have proper conditioning.
So, what do we do about it? Strengthen, strengthen, strengthen. It’s vital that these girls (or boys or John DunksAlot) have strong glutes and hamstrings as well as learn how to use them to decelerate, cut, jump and land especially when they’re already fatigued. The stronger the muscles, the more control she/he has, the less risk of injury.
We love working with this population because of their dedication, hard work and commitment to getting stronger and staying on the court, field, track, etc. Huge bonus when they also stay injury/pain free. If you or someone you love has a higher risk of ACL tear, reach out to us for info about preventative and maintenance care!