ACL injuries are an epidemic within sports and are much more likely to be experienced by female athletes. Specific factors such as the q angle, intercondylar notch, and menstrual cycle could contribute to the higher prevalence of tears in female athletes. The purpose of this blog is to provide a few training strategies aimed at reducing ACL injuries.
All training sessions should begin with an active warm-up that activates the nervous system, promotes global core stability, and dynamic flexibility. The warm-up should mimic patterns that will be used in the workout and should focus on a variety of single leg exercises as well as hip and ankle mobility. An example warm-up could include 90/90 hip flips, Cossack squats, reverse lunges, single leg glute bridges, high knees, power skips, and different plank variations.
The next step is to develop stability and eccentric strength particularly jumping and landing on one leg. Landing on one leg properly develops single leg stability and eccentric strength. An example of a drill to be used here could be lateral mini hurdle hops with the emphasis on sticking the landing.
Plyometrics should be progressed and incorporated into athletes’ training programs for ACL injury prevention. An example progression would begin with jumps onto a box in various directions, then jumping over a hurdle, then finally jumping over a series of hurdles or boxes minimizing ground contact time and utilizing the stretch shortening cycle.
Strength development is key in reducing ACL injuries particularly, single leg strength. Exercises that we often incorporate at Genesis include single leg deadlifts, single leg squats, lateral lunges, lateral step downs, and reverse lunges. It is important to make sure the athlete performs these movements in multiple planes.
Lastly the program needs to teach change of direction and lateral sprint mechanics. Various reactive agility drills that teach the athletes to properly change direction mimic the nature of sport and prepares them for the forces and speed that they will encounter in competition.