The Notre Dame women’s basketball team just won their second NCAA basketball championship in spectacular fashion.  Two buzzer beater shots in both the Final Four and the championship game captured the title for them.

What I found amazing is that this team had four players injured due to tearing their ACL.  I don’t know if any of them were significant players, but four players is four players.

One of my coaches, Alyssa Sharrer, did a report on ACL injury prevention as part of her school internship.  She shared it with me and I wanted to highlight some of the important points she made in her presentation.

You can never 100% prevent an ACL injury to happen, that is for sure.  But, you can decrease the chances of it happening if you are smart and proactive.

A few things that stuck out to me about examining some of the ACL injuries:

  • 70% of ACL injuries were non-contact injuries or very little contact even though they happen quite frequently in a lot of sports.
  • Young female athletes are 2-8X more likely to tear their ACL’s than young male athletes.
  • A lot of ACL’s will tear when you twist the knee with more force than it can handle. A simple rebound and sudden turn to outlet can tear it.  I’ve also witnessed torn ACL’s in a sudden change of direction, sudden stop, or landing from a jump awkwardly.

With all these ACL tears, there is now a test that researchers are suggesting might be very helpful into assessing if an athlete is a low, medium, or high risk of tearing the ACL.  What is real cool, is that my coaches have been doing this test for over a year now at our facility.

It is a single leg hop and stop test.

In a nutshell, an athlete stands on one leg and jumps.  The coach measures how far the athlete jumps and then tries to assess if he/she can stick the landing or how much wobbling is involved with the landing.

A low risk athlete should be able to stick the landing on both legs.  That athlete should also be able to jump his/her body height on both legs as well.  One of the big things this test shows is if the leg can stick the landing it can handle the deceleration forces associated in running, stopping, and change of direction.

Athletes tear their ACL on some type of deceleration not acceleration so examining how an athlete decelerates can tell us a lot.

If your athlete does the hop and stop test and he/she is a high risk candidate to tear an ACL, there are several things you can do to bring that risk down:

  • Strengthen the legs doing squats and lunges.
  • Strengthen the backside of your legs, specifically your glutes and hamstrings with some type of leg curl or glute ham exercise.
  • Athletes need to do plyos and work on how to land properly. If you can land correctly, then it translates to more dynamic movements in your game situation like cutting.
  • Change of direction drills will also help these athletes.

Once again, doing these drills will not prevent ACL injuries 100%, but they will increase your chances of it not happening.  If you don’t do them and get injured, you will never know if that injury could have been prevented if you had done the exercises.  So you might as well do them.