Is There Anything I Can Do To Prevent An Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injury?

Question: Is there anything I can do to prevent an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury?

Answer: Because an ACL injury is often a combination of many different factors, such as anatomy as well as technique, training, equipment and often just bad luck or bad timing, it's impossible to prevent all ACL injuries but you can decrease your risk of ACL injury by paying attention to some of the factors that we can control.

So, equipment obviously can be controlled, and we're talking about sports such as skiing, where proper boots, binding, appropriate ski size is important as well as technique.

I think training in terms of conditioning is important. We see a lot of these ACL tears occur when the athlete is fatigued and so obviously better conditioning will help prevent or decrease your risk of ACL injury.

We've come to know that female athletes are at greater risk than male athletes for ACL tears. And so there are specific training programs that can be utilized in the off-season or preseason, particularly in female athletes, to prevent or decrease the risk of ACL injuries. Two of the better known programs -- one comes out of Cincinnati and one comes out of Santa Monica, California -- and most athletic trainers or physical therapists can point you in the right direction to get into one of these training programs or preseason conditioning programs to prevent or decrease ACL injuries particularly in our female athletes. I think technique and working on agility in the offseason or preseason is also important.

And finally, there has been some attention paid to braces to prevent ACL injuries. We've not seen any definitive study that shows that braces will decrease the risk of injuries or ACL injuries, but in some high-risk sports and positions, such as offensive linemen in football, most teams and coaches will brace those athletes to prevent or decrease the risk of ACL injury. But for the general population braces have not shown to be effective in preventing or decreasing the risk of ACL injury.

I think conditioning, training and technique, as well as equipment are probably the areas you should focus on to decrease your risk of ACL injury.

Sherwin Ho, M.D., The University of Chicago Medical Center Play