female physical therapist stretching her male patients knee and leg

ACL Injury Prevention

Preventative physical therapy aims to decrease the risk of an ACL injury, which affects approximately 250,000 people in the US each year, according to the CDC.

What is an ACL injury?

The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, is a knee ligament that attaches from the back of the femur (thigh) to the front of the tibia (lower leg) to prevent movement of the tibia on the femur.

The ACL is injured when the force to the knee exceeds the ability of the ligament to stabilize it. While an injury can occur from a traumatic event, such as a direct hit to the knee, it is more commonly injured through non-contact movements, like hyperextension, an abrupt change in direction, twisting, or a combination of these motions.

Who is at risk for an ACL injury?

A study found that women are at risk for tearing their ACL more than men when playing sports like basketball and soccer. The reasoning isn’t entirely clear, but it’s suggested that women have weaker hamstrings and demonstrate preferential use of the quadriceps, which puts pressure on the knee, leading to injury.

Even though women who play certain sports are at greater risk, anyone who regularly participates in jumping, landing, and open field running with cutting or deceleration is at risk of developing an ACL injury.

fit man speaking with female physical therapist during consultation

ACL injury symptoms

Patients suffering from an ACL injury may experience the following symptoms:

  • Pain in and around the knee
  • Popping sensation in the knee
  • Limited knee movement
  • Rapid swelling in the knee
  • Discomfort and instability while walking
young women balances on exercise balls with male physical therapist helping her

How can I decrease the risk of an ACL injury?

ACL injury prevention programs typically consist of a warm-up to increase body temperature and blood flow to the muscles; stretching to the lower extremity including hamstrings, hip flexors, calves, and quadriceps; plyometrics or jump training that focus on improving landing and power; and agility drills focused on coordination, speed, and balance designed specifically for your sport.

ACL Injury Prevention resources

Torn ACL Recovery Time
ACL Injury

ACL Tears and Physical Therapy’s Role in Recovery

By: Peter Potena Located in the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, supports the knee by stopping the tibia (shin bone) from sliding forward...

Prevent an ACL Injury
Physical Therapy

How to Prevent an ACL Injury

Every year the U.S., nearly 250,000 people tear the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) located in the center of the knee. Some ACL injuries cause significant...

Torn ACL Recovery Time

What To Expect: Torn ACL Recovery Time

According to the National Library of Medicine, an estimated 1 in 3500 people in the United States will experience an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury...

what does cryotherapy do

Beginners Guide to Cold Therapy: What Does Cryotherapy Do?

Cold therapy, also known as cryotherapy, is a technique that exposes the body to extreme cold temperatures to achieve certain health benefits. While cryotherapy as...

What to expect

Your first physical therapy appointment is about creating a personalized treatment plan based on your health history, diagnosis, and goals. Here’s what you can expect at your first physical therapy appointment:

Your first appointment will last about an hour. Please arrive 15 minutes early.

If applicable, bring your physician referral or prescription, insurance card, paperwork, ID, and co-payment.

At your appointment, we’ll do an initial evaluation and discuss your care plan.

*Services are not available at every location. Visit our Locations page for more details.