I am a young athlete who has seen many friends tear their ACL. I do not want to have this happen to me. Is there anything I can do to prevent ACL injury?

There is never a guarantee that you can prevent any injury, but there are certainly steps that you can take to minimize your risk. As an young athlete, there are screening tools available that include specific jumping and cutting tests to identify if your biomechanics are such that you are at risk for ACL injury. Most of these screens are conducted by researchers in the areas of physical therapy, biomechanics or kinesiology. If you live near a University or have some contacts in the field of physical therapy or orthopedic medicine, ask around to see if any screening centers are in your area. If not, there are other options. Several ACL injury prevention programs have been developed in the past decade as the incidence of ACL injuries has risen with the rise in youth sport participation.

These programs typically involve an altered warm up and inclusion of certain fitness drills in practice that include core work, stretches, plyometrics, strengthening and sport-specific agility drills. The end goal is to optimize muscle balance and improve the your biomechanics, particularly with jumping and cutting type movements that typically stress the ACL. Two programs that have the most research supporting their effectiveness and the Sportsmetrics and Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) Programs. It is advisable to look at these programs online and also look around your local community of physical therapists and athletic trainers to see if any programs currently exist in your area. You could even get your team mates or a group of friends on board to train with you. It is best to have a qualified coach, personal trainer, or physical therapist to help guide you through these programs the first few times through, as there are specific things to look for with your movement that can be difficult to identify on your own. For the programs to be effective, form is the most important component.