ACL Injury Prevention: ACL Prevention Program


One of the most common injuries suffered by athletes playing team sports is an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) sprain or tear.  With more people now playing sports, running or participating in some kind of physical activity, more people are at higher risk of sustaining an injury- potentially more serious ones.

Australians are world leaders in many sports but unfortunately we’re also world leaders in ACL injuries, with that rate climbing consistently.  Sustaining an ACL injury can often be season ending. These injuries can occur at very random and innocuous times and are usually a result of rapid changes in direction at speed, typically in non-contact sports or events. ACL tears commonly occur in sports that involve sudden stops, jumping and landing such as soccer, AFL, basketball, rugby and netball

With ACL injuries becoming increasingly common, more time and research has been devoted to understanding the mechanisms behind ACL injuries and what steps can be taken to reduce the possibility of an ACL tear since prevention is far better than the cure. Research has shown that the risk of ACL injury can be reduced by regular neuromuscular agility training programmes.These prevention programs include various modes of exercise such as plyometrics, neuromuscular training, and strength training designed to teach the body to perform more optimally . We recommend you spend some time warming up your ACL properly before a match to avoid risk of ACL injury.

Traditional Anterior Cruciate Ligament warmups are divided into three sections: prevention, progression and performance. In tandem, these strengthening exercises can be used to reduce the risk of non-contact ACL tears of sprains. Contact ACL injuries are unavoidable in most cases, but by exercising before you play sport, you can significantly reduce your risk of non-contact ACL injury, evidence shows.

ACL prevention begins with a screening process that identifies potential injury risks. Jumping and cutting (switching direction quickly) are analysed by a physio to ensure that there is no serious risk of injury to the ACL ligament. These two motions are some of the most common causes of ACL injuries. Analysis of these motions doesn’t prevent ACL tears by itself, but instead identifies strength and flexibility thresholds that may cause injury if pressed.

Progression and performance sections of an ACL warmup involve dynamic stretches. The FIFA 11+ program is one option sports players may utilise in the hopes of reducing the instances of knee injuries occurring. Part one of this program involves dynamic stretches and mild contact with a partner. These two techniques work together to prevent injuries that occur when landing. Part two of the program includes a series of strengthening exercises that increase in difficulty. Part three involves the same exercises as in part one, but at a higher speed.

We offer the FIFA 11+ regimen at Erko Physio to all sports players who want to reduce their risk of injury while on the playing field. With all three steps of the program completed twice per week, the result of an ACL injury occurring is reduced by 30-50%, research demonstrates.

Other performance warmups include a routine of mobility exercises, certain movement patterns and muscle activation and strengthening exercises. The following list details what exercises should be done prior to a game commencing to avoid ACL injury:

  • Ankle dorsiflexion
  • Hip internal rotation
  • Hip external rotation

This three-step exercise program attempts to increase the range of motion of the ankle and hip joints. When there is a reduced range of motion, more pressure is placed on the anterior cruciate ligament. This increases the chance of injury occurring. More training can be done to increase core strength and reduce the load placed on the ACL, including:

  • Lunges
  • Jumping
  • Landing techniques

These training techniques should all be done in a controlled environment to make sure that ACL injury prevention is optimised. Knees should flex in conjunction with quadriceps when performing lunges, jumping or landing techniques. Evidence denotes that this should result in less chance of ACL injury.

If you have suffered an ACL injury in the past, or are worried about your ACL performance during your own sporting career, it’s worth consulting a professional. Call Erko Physio today to book an appointment with our friendly team at our clinic in Erskineville. Our injury prevention programs are backed up by professional industry research and demonstrate strong results. Our physical therapists are open for business Monday to Friday, 7:00-8:00pm, call us on (02) 9557 9272 to get started.