With the NFL season opener just around the corner, football will again be thrust upon the national stage. Teams will compete intensely and players will get injured. One injury that every player is hoping to avoid: an ACL tear.
With the increasing prevalence of these injuries, we caught up with TRIA Athletic Trainer Will Yungtum to learn more about who is at risk and what can be done to prevent injury.
Injury profile & risk factors
Some football players will be at a higher risk of an ACL injury. These include:
- High contact positions, such as wide receiver, quarterback, and running back
- Younger players, who are not as strong
- Players who are weaker in the quads, glutes and core
- Players who have a moving pattern deficiency, where the player’s knees stick out too far above their feet or where they run too far back on their heels
To help prevent injuries, TRIA athletic trainers will work with patients on exercises that isolate particular muscle groups. Many young players are mainly used to Olympic lifting. While this is an excellent way to train, it targets big muscle groups. Smaller muscle fibers need to be trained as well. This strengthens and stabilizes the knee, which will prevent injury. TRIA also focuses on proper form over the number of reps performed, and reminds players that it is better to rest than to perform an exercise incorrectly.
Can prevention enhance performance?
Over the course of time, it is possible that training to prevent an ACL injury will enhance a player’s performance. There will be an initial period of difficulty for the player, as they strengthen areas of isolated weakness. As these weaknesses improve, they will become stronger and tougher.
What does rehab look like after an ACL tear?
While each patient is different and requires customized care, there are some things that are common across the board:
- Many people have the impression that they will be able to return to play within six months. In fact, the risk of re-injury decreases significantly nine months after injury.
- Between seven and eight months after the injury is a good time to progressively resume noncontact drills. Most players will find it helpful to slowly progress back into their drills.
- After fully working back into their drills, players should spend about five to six weeks getting back into full play.
- The seventh to eighth week is usually the best time to fully reintegrate into the sport and get back on the field.
For patients recovering from a knee injury, TRIA’s Lower Extremity Agility Program (LEAP) teaches athletes to use proper form and control their extremities after sustaining an injury. To schedule an appointment, please call 952-831-8742.