How To Look After Your ACL This Footy/Soccer Season
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament or better known as the ACL is located within the knee and is designed to keep the shin bone from moving out of place. It is becoming increasingly common to hear of injuries related to the ACL as our younger generations are beginning to play elite levels of sport before their bodies have completely developed. This is leading to increased probability of arthritis later in life as well as a lack of confidence when participating in physical activities. Preservation and prevention are vital not just for the athletes among us but also for our mothers, teachers, corporate workers and our elderly.
Breaking the common myth, most ACL injuries are actually caused by non-contact actions such as sudden directional changes, unexpected falling from uneven ground and landing a jump where the foot is facing a different direction to the knee. All of these situations put stress on the ligament and can cause it to make a ‘popping’ sound or feeling. This may then be followed by Swelling in the region within a few hours, severe pain and a feeling of instability or ‘giving way’ with weight bearing. Clearly this type of injury can be detrimental to daily activities and needs immediate diagnosis by a professional physiotherapist as it can lead to further injury within the knee and other connected areas.
Entering the winter sports season, Soccer and rugby players are among some of the most susceptible athletes to wind up being carried off the field by a stretcher because of an ACL tear. There are five main steps to follow to better prevent a major injury to the ACL;
Warm Up – Anyone who’s ran onto a field without warming up will tell you that they felt ‘tight, sore and sluggish’ during and after their game. Promoting blood flow to your extremities will help you reach your potential out on the field and will also improve recovery time.
Stretching – Dynamic stretching is essential, especially on those cold winter mornings as it irons out any stiffness and helps maintain limber muscles. Make sure that you allow time to stretch your legs too as they bear all of your weight and any injury to the legs are amplified by the weight that we place on them.
Strengthening – Regularly running, cycling, weight training and swimming are all great ways to maintain and improve strength to not only your legs but will also benefit your core, balance and endurance.
Agility Drills – Be sure to include agility drills into your training regime to diversify the muscle groups that you use. This can be as simple as 5 sets of shuttle runs, or just simply line-to-line jogging if you are finding shuttle runs to stressful on your joints. Be sure to challenge your boundaries but always listen to your body!
Cool Down – Cooling down includes, warming down with static stretching and keeping your muscles warm. It is also vital to have rest days between your activity to allow your body to recover correctly otherwise overworked muscles and ligaments are more likely to fail under constant pressure.
If you are feel as though you may be prone to injuring your ACL, any other joints or ligaments in your body, it is worth being proactive and addressing your concerns before they become problems. A professional Physiotherapist can assess your condition and will give you exercises to strengthen your area of concern which is a key step to preventing majour injury and is a great way to maintain good health.