Four tips to help keep women away from experiencing an ACL tear.
1. Maintain the centre of strength - One would always want to strengthen the muscles, not overload them. Many athletes try to push themselves to their physical limits while working out - run one more minute, do one more rep, lift just 5 more pounds, etc - but doing so can actually overload muscles and lead to injury. Instead, I would suggest concentrating on building and maintaining strength across the board during your workouts.
Having a strong foundation and strength in the muscles that you use in your sport or activity is what will help prevent injury. For women specifically, this includes building your core muscles and hamstrings (the muscles that run up the back of your thigh) which help prevent against ACL injuries.
2. Stretch for symmetry - Having a balance between the left and right sides of your body is very important in preventing sports injuries. Studies have shown that even 15 percent side-to-side differences in flexibility and strength can increase a female athleteâs risk for injury, so itâs important for them to pay attention to any imbalances while stretching.
This imbalance can cause the bodyâs center of gravity to shift while landing from a jump and places females at risk for a knee injury. Sometimes athletes think that stretching is boring and donât pay attention while doing this, but subtle things, such as stretching the right side less than the left, can add up and create an imbalance.
3. Activate the right muscles during exercises - Exercises that build the hamstrings are very important for women participating in sports and physical activities to help prevent ACL injuries. In general, women tend to have less hamstring strength than men, which leads to an inability to control the knee if it gives out during movement.
When doing landing drills, like jumping squats, for example, women need to get down low enough in their squat to activate their hamstrings and build that strength.
4. Eating a well-balanced diet - Nutrition is very important in athletes. Generally, women donât eat enough and end up calorically deficient or dehydrated, which leads to fatigue. When athletes are tired and feel worn out, they tend to stop concentrating on their form. Thatâs when an injury is likely to happen. Instead, women should concentrate on drinking enough water and eating a well-balanced diet, including fruits, vegetables, low-fat, high content proteins and whole grains.