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

ACL Injury Prevention Program

To help keep athletes in play and prevent ACL injuries, UPMC Sports Performance offers the ACL Injury Prevention Program.

Whether you’re looking to return to play from an ACL tear or want to prevent one from happening, the ACL Injury Prevention Program can help.

The 9-week program uses evidence-based methods to help reduce the risk of non-contact ACL injuries while improving athletic performance. Recommended by both doctors and physical therapists the program is open to:

  • Healthy athletes between the ages of 12 and 50 who want to increase performance.
  • Athletes that have had ACL surgery and completed physical therapy.
  • Teams and groups looking to train and help prevent ACL injury.

ACL Injury Prevention Program Experts

Rick Joreitz, PT, DPT, SCS, ATC
Sr. Physical Therapist, UPMC Centers for Rehab Services

Ron DeAngelo, ATC, LAT, CSCS
Director, UPMC Sports Performance Program

Make an Appointment at UPMC Sports Medicine

To make an appointment or learn more about the ACL Injury Prevention Program, call 412-432-3871 or email joreitzre@upmc.edu. For more information about our comprehensive sports medicine services, visit UPMC Sports Medicine.