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Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear and Injury Prevention

How to Prevent ACL Tears and Injuries

An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear or injury can happen to both athletes and non-athletes. To help lower the risk of an ACL tear or injury, UPMC Sports Medicine experts recommend the following:

  • Year-round training and conditioning. Performing strength and stretching exercises during the off-season can help athletes with balance and coordination for when the season starts.
  • Proper warm-up prior to competition. Allow yourself time to warm-up prior to competition with sport specific exercises and stretches. A proper warm-up is important for preventing muscle strains.
  • Practice landing skills and direction changes. Not bending the knees enough when changing directions or landing from a jump exposes athletes to more pressure in the legs and increases the risk of ACL injury. This is especially important for women as they do not bend their knees as much as men do when landing a jump. Our experts recommend the following when landing after jumping:
    • Bend your knees when landing. As the knees bend during landing, make sure they travel in a straight path. Do not let them move closer together. 
    • Land softly on the balls of the feet and roll back onto the heels.
    • Keep your knees and hips aligned and your upper body upright. Don't bend too far forward or backward at the hips as you land.
    • Try not to land on one foot. If this is not possible, bring the other foot down as soon as possible to distribute weight evenly.
  • Improve agility. In sports such as soccer and basketball, sudden changes in movement are part of the game which may put athletes at risk for ACL injuries. Practice proper form in agility exercises such as cutting.
  • Work on muscle strength. Focus on lower body and core strengthening. A strong core and hips help athletes improve balance, while strong hamstrings and quadriceps work together to bend or straighten the leg. Strengthening these targeted areas can help reduce the risk of an ACL injury.

Exercises to Reduce Risk of ACL Injuries

The following exercises are beneficial for athletes to strengthen their legs and help lower the risk of ACL injuries:

  • Quad sets
  • Straight leg raises
  • Backward leg raises
  • Hip abduction
  • Squats
  • Wall Sits
  • Reverse Lunges
  • Bridges (short leg and long leg)
  • Planks and Side Planks

Make an Appointment at UPMC Sports Medicine

To learn more or make an appointment, please call 1-855-937-7678 or complete our contact form.