Knee Strengthening for Athletes: How to Avoid ACL/PCL Damage

Knee Strengthening for Athletes: How to Avoid ACL/PCL Damage

The knee is the largest joint in the body, connecting the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). The tendons allow the knee joint to move as they serve as the joining support of the knee bones to the leg muscles. Knees are essential for competing in almost every sport. Unfortunately, due to heavy stressors and pressure on these complex joints during workouts and practices, it is the most common site for injury in athletes. Overall, knee injuries make up about 55% of all sports injuries.

ACL Injuries

The anterior cruciate ligament, more popularly known as the ACL, prevents the femur from sliding backward on the tibia. The ACL is infamous for being torn or strained in athletes, causing the knee to become unstable. The knee may “give out” and most athletes will have to undergo surgical repair in order to continue playing their sport. However, a surgical repair of the ACL will have an athlete recovering for six to nine months until they are able to return to their pre-injury condition. An ACL tear does not occur from player-to-player contact, instead it is caused when changing direction or cutting maneuvers combined with sudden stopping, landing awkwardly from a jump, or pivoting with the knee nearly fully extended when the foot is planted on the ground (Preventing ACL Injuries, n.d.).

Strengthening the related muscles to these movements, such as the hips and thighs, will help alleviate pressure to the knees when attempting pivoting, jumping and landing, and cutting. Athletes should train to properly execute the aforementioned movements to prevent ACL injuries from occurring. They should also focus on maintaining good alignment, body awareness, and balance to support knees and ankles. When landing or stopping, athletes should be sure to keep knees directly over the feet, and should at no times allow the knees to collapse inward. Other preventative measures including warming up before any strenuous activity and stretching (ACL Injury Prevention Tips, n.d.). Also, proper training and care implemented during the adolescent ages of the athlete may reduce the probability of ACL injuries.

Posterior Cruciate Ligament

The PCL, also known as the posterior cruciate ligament, is the strongest ligament within the knee. Similar to the ACL, the PCL connects the thigh bone to the shin bone. Even though the PCL is larger and stronger than the ACL, it can still be torn or strained, making up less than 20% of injuries to the knee. PCL injuries are caused from a strong blow to the knee while bent–falling on knee while bent, striking a knee on the dashboard during an auto accident, etc. Sports such as football, soccer, baseball, and skiing are a common cause of PCL injuries (Knee (Human Anatomy), n.d.).

Prevent a Knee Injury

Since PCL injuries are often caused by accident, there are no specific preventative measures against them. However, if participating in physical activities that may lead to a PCL injury, athletes should use proper techniques and alignment. Stretching regularly will also allow the body to maintain a wider range of motion in joints which will help prevent many injuries. Like ACL preventative measures, strengthening the leg muscles will help stabilize the joint.

All athletes should take precautionary measures to prevent season-ending injuries like an ACL or PCL tear or strain from occurring. By training the body and building a strong core of muscles, it will help lessen the probability of these injuries. However, there are always unforeseen circumstances that may cause an injury, and in which case, the athlete should seek medical diagnosis to determine the severity of his or her injury, as surgery may or may not be required.

Citation References:

ACL Injury Prevention Tips and Exercises: Stay Off the Sidelines! (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2016, from https://www.hss.edu/conditions_acl-injury-prevention-stay-off-sidelines.asp

Knee (Human Anatomy): Images, Function, Ligaments, Muscles. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/pain-management/knee-pain/picture-of-the-knee

Preventing ACL Injuries. (n.d.). Retrieved March 30, 2016, from http://www.stopsportsinjuries.org/STOP/Prevent_Injuries/ACL_Injury_Prevention.aspx

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