ACL injury reduction is just good training

ACL injury reduction is just good training

 Written by Pablo Matos,CSCS

It was a busy opening week here at Trident, as we got the ball rolling and our athletes crushed their first few sessions. Over the weekend, we started thinking about some common injuries many athletes run into, and how we can reduce the risk. The most glaring being ACL injuries. ACL injuries are the most common knee injury in sports. According to the Department of Sports Medicine at UCSF, ACL injury has an annual incidence of more than 200,000 cases every year.  With an estimated 70% of them being sustained through non-contact mechanisms. As you can see, being able to reduce the risk of a knee injury is a top priority. Especially since, in some populations, these risks can increase exponentially.

“An athlete’s risk of having a first-time non contact ACL injury is independently influenced by level of competition, the participant’s sex, and type of sport” – American Journal of Sports Medicine

Due to the violent and unpredictable nature of sports, there will always be a risk of injury. However, these risks can be reduced significantly through good training protocols.

What is “Good Training”?

To answer this question, we need to review two things. a nice concept known as the SAID principle and quality of movement. The SAID principle is a Specific Adaptation to an Imposed Demand. Simply put, this principle allows us to increase a desired adaptation to a given stress or demand. As an example, a specific adaptation could be jump training. Jump training imposes a stress or demand. Over time, this causes the body to adapt to this stress more efficiently.

However, that alone is only half of the answer to what good training is. The second part is, Quality of movement. By quality of movement, we are referring to creating movement competence in all three planes of motion, while maintaining good fundamental movement mechanics.

Basically, the bigger an athlete’s movement book becomes, the better they can react to the unpredictable during their sport. The better they can react in their sport, the less likely they are of coming across a non contact injury. Good training is essentially, including a variety of movements in your training, executing them properly, and imposing a demand through jump training, speed mechanics, and progressive overload of their weight training. Over time they will adapt to the stress better, and reduce the risks of injury dramatically.

For those that still aren’t sold on this, check this picture of RGIII on his combine:

And then on the day of his knee injury:

If we look at both the combine and injury photo you can see the same knee valgus (knee caving in). Now, we are not saying that this knee valgus caused this injury, but could learning how to jump properly have reduced his likelihood of injury? Probably.

The Takeaway

Again, sports are extremely unpredictable and one cannot prepare for everything. That said, when training we want to make sure athletes know how to properly jump, land, turn, and change direction. While teaching them how to perform these movements we also want to expose them to as many other movements as possible in a controlled environment. If they can recognize movement in a controlled environment, the more likely they are to be able to react.  The better they react, the more they will execute these movements automatically in their respective sport. By learning how to move well, adding volume to their movement library, and learning how to absorb and produce force can go a long way in reducing the risk of non contact injuries and increasing the longevity of an athlete’s career.

  1. Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury (ACL). Department of Orthopaedic Surgery: Sports medicine. Accessed December 13, 2016.
  2. Bayden BD.he Effects of Level of Competition, Sport, and Sex on the Incidence of First-Time Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury. The American journal of sports medicine. Accessed December 13, 2016.
  3. Noyes FR, Barber-Westin SD. Neuromuscular retraining intervention programs: do they reduce noncontact anterior cruciate ligament injury rates in adolescent female athletes? Arthroscopy : the journal of arthroscopic & related surgery : official publication of the Arthroscopy Association of North America and the International Arthroscopy Association. Accessed December 13, 2016.
  4. Stanley LE, Kerr ZY, Dompier TP, Padua DA. Sex Differences in the Incidence of Anterior Cruciate Ligament, Medial Collateral Ligament, and Meniscal Injuries in Collegiate and High School Sports: 2009-2010 Through 2013-2014. The American journal of sports medicine. Accessed December 13, 2016
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