• Kris Krotiris

Are ACL injuries preventable?

Updated: Mar 28, 2019

Round one of the 2019 AFL season unfortunately saw us witness three serious knee injuries to some of the game’s elite players. It can be difficult to comprehend how such a seemingly innocuous incident can result in an elite athlete tearing one of the most important stabilising ligaments in the knee leading to 10-12 months on the side-lines!

How does it happen?

It doesn’t seem like much, but analysing the pictures below reveal two typical scenarios leading to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury- the knee buckling inwards when landing from a jump or trying to change direction. This buckling movement puts a huge amount of injurious force through the ACL, ultimately resulting in a complete tear for Richmond's Alex Rance and Adelaide's Tom Doedee (both pictured below).

ACL injury
Poor technique with landing and/or changing direction can put you at risk of a serious knee injury

Unfortunately, the ACL very rarely heals itself. For high-level athletes, this means surgery to reconstruct this important ligament and 10-12 months of rehabilitation!

Can ACL injuries be prevented?

There are many factors which can contribute to an athlete’s risk for suffering an ACL injury. Some risk factors are modifiable, meaning we can change/improve them to reduce the future risk of injury. These include:

  • Poor jumping and landing technique

  • Inadequate hip, knee and core strength

  • Inadequate fitness

  • Increased BMI

  • Improper Footwear (although not yet scientifically proven)

There are also many non-modifiable risk factors. These cannot be changed, and include:

  • A previous history of ACL injury

  • Joint hypermobility, in particular knee hypermobility beyond 10 degrees

  • Increased Q-angle (putting women at greater risk- see picture below)

  • Elements relating to the internal structure of the knee (increased posterior-inferior directed slope of tibial plateau, decrease in depth of concavity of medial tibial plateau, decreased intercondylar notch width and/or notch stenosis, increased AP knee laxity)


Each athlete's risk is determined by the interplay between the above mentioned factors and more. The best you or any athlete can do to prevent such an injury is focus on correcting any modifiable risk factors with the guidance of your physiotherapist! Working on each will help to reduce your risk of injury, but unfortunately will not guarantee you will stay injury free.

If you have had a previous ACL injury or would like to implement an injury prevention program to reduce your future risk of injury, get in touch with us for an appointment (book online or call us on 0415 889 903). If you'd just like some more info, send us an email and we can direct you to some great resources!

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