The fast-paced play and sharp, pivoting movements of the football field can be especially tough on player’s knees and hips – leaving them susceptible to serious injuries like ACL and LCL tears. Even RGIII couldn’t overcome the sport’s brutal demands on his already weakened knee.
Prevention is the key in dealing with ACL injuries in all athletes. Research shows that by strengthening certain lower trunk and core muscle groups, physically active individuals can prevent debilitating ACL injuries from overuse, weakness, and improper form. Physicians who focus on sports medicine all talk about the importance of conditioning programs to reduce the incidence of knee ligament injuries.
Below is a list of five of the most effective and important exercises to avoid the all-too-common ACL injury. Incorporating the following exercises into your workout routine will help you condition your body to prevent ACL injury.
1. Wall Sit
The purpose of this exercise is to strengthen the quadriceps (thigh muscles) and the gluteus medius muscle (outer hip) to prevent your knees from falling inwards with jumping and landing. This will also aide in preventing injury when receiving a blow to the outside of your leg. Lean up against a wall with a resistance band around your legs and slide down until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Next, rise up onto your toes. Hold for 15-60 seconds according to your fitness level. Repeat 3-5 times. Make sure to keep your back and butt pressed into the wall.
2. Prone Abdominal Plank
This exercise strengthens core muscles and gives the legs a more rigid, sturdy frame to prevent injury. Get into a plank position. Hold it for 15-60 seconds. Repeat 3-5 times per set. If necessary, perform on your knees instead of on your toes. Remember to squeeze your butt muscles together as tight as you can, suck your belly button into your spine, and keep your lower back flat!
3. Side-Lying Plank
These planks target the outer hip muscles and abdominal obliques to improve form with jumping and landing. Similar to prone plank, this plank is done on your side. You should hold the position for 15-60 seconds with good form. Repeat 3-5 times per set. If necessary, bend your knees 90 degrees to keep good form. Don’t Let your hips sag towards the floor or allow your top shoulder to round forward
4. Single Leg Stance Terminal Knee Extension
Strengthen the quadriceps (thigh) muscle just above the knee to prevent the knee from buckling with this knee extension. This will help to build ankle and hip stability and to assist your balance. To begin: balance on one leg with a resistance band anchored into a door and wrapped around your leg just above the knee joint. Slightly bend the stance leg without letting your heel pop up then slowly return to start position. Repeat 10-15 times. Complete 2-3 sets per session. Then repeat the entire exercise with your opposite leg. Make sure to keep your knee in line with the 2nd and 3rd toe as you squat.
5. Glut Activation with Resistance Band
Glut activations increase gluteus strength and activation to keep the knees from falling inward with jumping and landing. They also assist in preventing injuries when receiving a blow to the outside of your leg. To perform this exercise, stand in a squat position with a resistance band tied above your knees. Try to balance your weight in your heels as you push your right leg in and out – moving your knee alignment from the 2nd toe to 5th toe and back to starting position. Repeat 15-20 times per set per leg. Do not allow your knees to go over your toes.
If you suspect that you have an ACL injury, call your physician immediately. Symptoms of an ACL injury include swelling on the outside and back of the knee, swelling, difficulty moving the joint, and sudden unsteadiness or wobbliness when trying to walk.