Over 200,000 people sustain anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries every year, and ACL reconstructions are some of the most common procedures implemented in the United States.

More young individuals than ever are afflicted with such injuries, and young athletes who suffer from ACL injuries may experience fear, perceived alienation from their fellow athletes, depression, and even lower grades. Worse than the more immediate results are the potential long-term effects, such as the risk of developing osteoarthritis within 10 to 15 years after sustaining an ACL injury.

Fortunately, such injuries may be prevented when young people are educated on proper movement techniques. Educational programs are available in many areas to help young athletes learn about ACL injury prevention. Those who do the right kinds of exercises could significantly lower their risk of sustaining ACL injuries. Physical therapists may even be able to perform tests on young athletes, in order to determine their likelihood of being injured in the ACL area.

Such health care professionals might then offer personalized training programs for young ones who may be predisposed to these injuries, instead of waiting until the injuries occur and then implementing treatment.

How Weakened Hips and Poor Movement Habits Cause ACL Injuries

When the knee is subjected to various positions, such as the kinds that are involved in playing sports, it may be more vulnerable to ACL injury. This may be especially true when people engage in activities such as basketball, baseball, skiing, and tennis, which all require abrupt changes in direction at any given time. When the knees are weak or the muscles in the core area are weakened due to inactivity or other factors, the chances that a young athlete may sustain an ACL injury increase.

An individual who has developed proper movement habits may still be injured if the knees or muscles are weak. Additionally, a person who has learned correct muscle training could sustain an injury due to improper movement patterns.

The Increase in ACL Injuries

Although more students are now being educated on the ACL injury prevention, such injuries are on the rise. This may be true because of insufficient training programs for individuals. When all athletes in a program are trained in a uniform manner, individual needs are neither identified nor addressed. Those who may be the most vulnerable to ACL injuries could experience avoidable injuries when they participate in such a program.

Another factor may be that many training programs operate on outdated research. The former thought on this matter was that strengthening the hamstrings and the quadriceps resulted in a decrease in ACL injuries.

More recent research has shown that in addition to strengthening the hamstrings and quadriceps, young athletes may need to focus on retraining in relation to movement patterns, as well. Along with learning how to move correctly, young athletes also need to be taught how to activate the muscles properly when they are engaged in sports or other physical activities.

Learning to Move Properly and Strengthening the Hip Muscles

A physical therapist may assess the needs of a young athlete to determine which areas will require the most training (or retraining). Movement training typically involves learning how to move in a new way. The complexities of movement training can generally be divided into simpler parts that are easier to understand.  Every step of a movement training program may increase in complexity without overwhelming the participant.

Strengthening the hip muscles may be another key factor in ACL injury prevention. Individuals can learn to perform targeted exercises that activate the hip muscles. Once a person knows how to activate the hip muscles, then the primary focus may be placed on strengthening them.

The number of ACL injuries may be increasing, but this trend can change as a result of proper education on movement and muscle strength. A broad approach to training may need to be replaced with a more individualized strategy. Once various training programs have been updated to reflect modern research, young athletes in general might sustain fewer ACL injuries than ever.