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ACL Injuries: Why They’re Becoming More Common

When you hear “ACL” (or Anterior Cruciate Ligament), what’s the first thing that comes into your mind? For many of us, we immediately think of the number of ruptured or torn ACLs in sports, causing many athletes undergo knee reconstructions.

What you may not realise is the incidence of ACL injuries in young children is steadily on the rise, and becoming a major issue within many high-level sports such as AFL and Netball.

Why is the Prevalence of ACL Injuries is Growing?

Children as young as 6 have presented with these injuries, with the overall age of injury decreasing in the last decade. Unfortunately, ACL tears often lead to lengthy rehabilitation and recovery times, potentially increasing the risk of arthritis.

One theory explaining a potential cause of this issue, is the increase in sports participation with the tendency to professionalize the sport and training from an early age.

This recently struck home after attending under 11soccer training, which bought my attention to the high intensity training children are undertaking and participating in drills and movements with poor body awareness and poor movement patterns which could potentially lead to injuries.

Over recruitment of muscle groups like the hamstrings and trunk flexors and under recruitment of the gluteals alongside poor balance and ankle control can all contribute.

How to we prevent an ACL tear?

Implementing prevention strategies for both children and adults could be a way to reduce the incidence and burden of these injuries.

Teaching people to move better, incorporating agility, good quality jumping and landing techniques to prevent this type of sporting injuries is a good way to start.

Exercise Physiologists and Physiotherapists can help with this, and if necessary, provide exercise programmes to strengthen muscles or ligaments where required. Additionally, it could be worthwhile having an exercise screening to determine risk of injury. After all, preventing injuries is far cheaper than sustaining them and requiring rehabilitation.

What to do when you tear your ACL?

When injury to the ACL has been sustained and Phase 1 of rehabilitation has begun under the guidance of your surgeon or Physiotherapist, you could expect have subsided pain, reduced swelling and normalized range of motion.

So where to next?

Generally speaking, these phases of rehabilitation are what you can expect to undertake after an ACL repair. Each person is different and their exact rehabilitation will be dependent on their personal circumstances, and specific advice can be provided by your Surgeon, Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist.

Phase 2 Aim (2-6 weeks)

Returning movement to the knee joint and surrounding muscles mainly in lying, sitting with weight baring to tolerance and normalised gait encouraged.

Phase 3 Aim (6-12 weeks)

Phase 3 is about strengthening the quadriceps, gluteals, calf, hamstrings, core muscle groups to assist the ligament (non-surgical approach) or to protect the new ligament (surgical approach)

Phase 4 Aim (12-16weeks)

Loading the lower limb in standing functional movements to mimic the demands of the sport or activity. Think straight line running, walking lunges, single leg squats and dynamic jumping exercises (jump squats)

Phase 5 Aim (16-24weeks)

Return to activity with no pain and normalised function and strength. Think zigzag running, jumping, increased external resistance in lower limb strengthening programs.

You may even be able to return to sport, pending Physician clearance.It usually takes about 6 months to make a full recovery from ACL reconstruction; however, this is very dependent on the individual and how closely you follow the advice of your Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist.

If you would like to contact our Physiotherapists or Exercise Physiologist regarding an ACL injury, or an injury prevention programme,please call us 8373 5655.

Our clinic provides a range of rehabilitation or exercise options, depending on what is appropriate for you.

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