Putting ACL tears to the testFebruary 9, 2012
ACL tears are the bane (and pain) of any athlete’s life, regardless of the sport or level to which it’s played, but there’s hope on the horizon.
For those with no clue on what or where the ACL is, you are the lucky ones. For those who have ever torn an ACL, you will be acutely aware that’s it one of the four major ligaments of the human knee, known in full as the Anterior Cruciate Ligament, and rightly so. It’s an ex-CRUCIATE-ing ligament to tear and one that requires lengthy and intense rehabilitation.
In my 15 years as a physiotherapist I have taken at least 50 clients through the painstaking ACL rehabilitation process, varying from 6-12 months from the time of repair. The resulting time, effort and expense only adds insult to injury, so what if it could be avoided?
At the recent Australian Physio Conference in Brisbane I took great heart in hearing guest speaker Dr Gregory Myer explain that well, in fact, ACL tears could be avoided in many cases.
I won’t bore you with all the detail of Myer’s research but basically, he has developed a new method to identify athletes at high risk of an ACL injury using clinic-based measurements and freeware computer analysis.
The significance of such a test is huge in that it provides physiotherapists and sports injury specialists a simple and effective method of screening individuals, and even entire squads of athletes, to identify those at a high risk of the dreaded ACL tear, the most common ‘season-ender’ in so many sports.
The test simply involves ten tuck jumps which are filmed from frontal and side positions. This footage is then digitally assessed based on ten factors which results in an overall score rating the individual’s probability of incurring an ACL tear.
The best time to screen athletes is between 10-14 years of age, before the ligaments are fully hardened and at a time when they have a higher chance of neuroplasticity or pattern adjustment.
For those individuals who are identified as being ‘high risk’, the primary treatment involves strengthening of the posterior chain (deep back muscles, gluts, hamstring and calf) as these muscles act as shock absorbers for the ACL. The stronger they become, and the quicker they fire, the more likely the ACL remains intact. The strengthening of the posterior chain progresses by challenging the muscles in more and more unstable positions, as well as performing the movements at a greater speed and increased functionality – more than any sport could ever require.
In listening to Myer speak, I was also pleased to learn that his approach to rehab exercise for ACL tears mirrored precisely those exercises currently prescribed here at Proactive Physio. Go team!
For more information on ACL tear prevention or treatment of high risk individuals please consult Proactive Physio.