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An ACL injury can stop you in your tracks. If you hear a ‘pop’ in your knee while exercising or playing a sport, you may have torn your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) — a nightmare for athletes. An injury like this is more than just a pain, it most often requires surgery and requires rehabilitation to make the best recovery. Furthermore, having sustained an ACL tear puts you at greater risk for osteoarthritis at an early age, and a higher probability of needing a knee replacement later in life.

What is the ACL?

Your ACL is what keeps the other parts of your knee in place. The knee is made up of four ligaments that tether the tibia (shin bone) and femur (thigh bone) to the knee. The ACL keeps the tibia in place and limits over-rotation of the knee joint. Without it intact, the tibia can slide underneath the femur.

Movements that put the ACL at risk

It’s important that you take the proper steps when active to avoid a torn ACL. Improper movements when “cutting,” or taking hard, quick turns, and “planting,” or landing your feet after a jump or step are what cause 70% of ACL injuries. Landing with your knee extended is dangerous. Learning the right ways of jumping, landing and pivoting can help you avoid an ACL injury. Learning proper form should be an integral part of all athletes’ training.

Risk factors

Female athletes are two to four times more likely to sustain an ACL injury than male athletes. New research debunks previous reasoning that blamed the different way women’s knees move as the reason for the increased risk. Turns out both female and male athletes sustain an ACL injury in the same way.

Fatigue is another common factor that plays into ACL injuries. When you are tired, you usually use poor mechanics, such as missing a landing or pivoting the wrong way.

Steps to take to avoid injury

An important step to take if you play sports is to enhance your strength and form. Training with a sports health professional can help you gain the fundamentals you need to make sure you’re pivoting, cutting, jumping, and landing properly.

Nailing down these movements will help you limit your risk of a devastating knee injury.

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