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ACL injury prevention in younger athletes

ACL injuries are the most common injuries that young athletes succumb to.Not only is this injury painful but it can also hamper with the athletes’ training and growth. An ACL injury refers to the tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament and normally occurs when an athlete suddenly changes direction, stops or jumps. As a result of the ligament tear, the knee will start swelling and it will no longer have the ability to bear body’s weight.

Previously an ACL surgery was an invasive affair that left a huge scar on the patient’s knee. However now ACL surgeries have become quite simple and we owe this transition to the rapid improvement in technology. Even if the surgery is a success, it often takes months or years for a patient to recover completely.

Why are younger athletes at a higher risk of suffering from an ACL injury?

The number of cases of younger athletes falling victim to these injuries is higher in comparison. The underlining reason why younger athletes are more prone to such injuries is partly due to their training program and their physical state.

The evidence from numerous studies suggests that female athletes are more prone to ACL injuries due to the way they perform certain actions. For example, female footballers perform most of their actions with a knee locked position and decreased use of hamstring strength. Both contribute to the increased risk of an ACL injury.

The underlining reason why younger athletes are more prone to ACL injuries is due to the fact that these athletes are playing and training all the time. At a very tender age, children start training and participating in competitions, these children perform inefficient movements, which is sure shot recipe for a disaster.

Even if they face a slight ACL injury, they continue with their training instead of getting medical help, which further aggravates the problem. Most people have the common misconception that ACL injuries only occur in contact sports. However, numerous studies have proven that most ACL cases occur due to bad mechanics and bad luck!

How to prevent ACL injuries in younger athletes?

Due to a significant increase in the number of ACL injuries reported in younger athletes, we have compiled a list of prevention techniques that every coach should incorporate in their training regime.

  • Mechanics training: Valgus collapse is when the knee is not maneuvered in an appropriate way and is the leading risk factor that causes an ACL tear. Coaches should teach their pupils how to lunge, jump, squat and land effectively. By equipping them with these core techniques, the risk of them falling awkwardly will be reduced by a substantial margin. Athletes should be trained on how to properly land from a jump. These practices will help reduce the risk of any ACL injuries.
  • Strength training: The gluteus medius plays the most crucial role in preventing a valgus collapse. This is exactly why coaches should incorporate strength training in their coaching regime. It increases the athlete’s core and hip strength.
  • Recovery period: The last prevention technique that coaches should consider instilling in younger athletes is teaching the importance of recovery time. If an athlete even feels slight discomfort in the knee, they should immediately start treatment instead of playing and further aggravating the injury.

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