With the World Cup currently in full force, it is difficult for physical therapists everywhere to not think about ACL tears when soccer is at the forefront of our attention. ACL tears are alarmingly prevalent in soccer players, particularly in females. In fact, female soccer players are near the top of the charts when it comes to athletes most at risk of ACL tears. But what, if anything, can be done to prevent this? While the risk of ACL tears can never be eliminated, the evidence suggests the risk can be reduced via targeted injury-prevention programs. Injury-prevention programs designed for ACL health should focus on improving lower extremity biomechanics via functional strength and stability exercises, particularly targeting the quadriceps, gluteals, hamstrings, and core musculature. Here are some common therapeutic exercises to consider:
The TRX Retro Floating Lunge is a great way to improve dynamic knee control while strengthening the quadriceps, hamstrings, and gluteals. Perform 3 sets of 10-20 repetitions per leg, every other day.
Band-resisted side-stepping helps to strengthen the gluteus medius, a muscle critical in controlling excessive rotational forces at the knee, which can be implemented in ACL tears. Perform 3 sets of 10-20 steps each direction, every other day.
Lateral bounding is a common plyomteric exercise that can help to improve dynamic knee control and hip stability, while also increasing power in the leg musculature. Perform 3 sets of 10 jumps in each direction, every other day.
An agility ladder stepping series creates a functional opportunity to improve coordination and dynamic knee control, translating to more efficient footwork on the soccer field. Perform a routine similar to this every other day.
Programs to reduce the risk of ACL tears should incorporate training multiple days per week and contain workouts that are at least 20 minutes in duration. With any injury-prevention program, compliance is key, as you only will see a benefit if these exercises are performed with regularity. Finally, when considering any new training program, please consult with your physical therapist or sports medicine provider before moving forward. Play on!