As Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz knows all too well, juking a defender and other sudden changes of direction can cause one of the most common injuries in football – tears to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.
“Unfortunately, even the strongest and most conditioned athletes are susceptible to suffering ACL tears,” said Katherine M. Pohlgeers, MD, a University of Louisville sports medicine specialist and sports team physician. “The ACL is an elastic ligament that can succumb to injury, not only in the face of trauma, but also during non-contact plays.”
Immediately following ACL tears, athletes usually experience swelling, pain and weakness in the knee. The injury often requires surgery to repair and a formal physical therapy program.
While Wentz will miss the Super Bowl because of the season-ending injury he experienced in December, Pohlgeers advises that lower body exercises can help prevent injury to the stabilizing ligament in the knee by building and maintaining strength and stability in the lower extremities.
Improving balance, following safe running and jumping techniques and incorporating closed chain exercises – which include squats, lunges and leg presses – into an athlete’s training program can dramatically reduce the prevalence of ACL tears, Pohlgeers said.