It's no secret that a large number of ACL injuries happen every day in high school athletics. With statistics showing that 70-75% of these injuries are non-contact, it's clear that more preventative work can be done to decrease the risks athletes face when stepping on the field. Below are our top three training tips to help make athletes more durable and resilient.
1. Increase Strength: Weaker athletes will always get hurt more often. Many injuries occur when an athlete ends up in a compromised position simply because their body isn't strong enough to maintain proper alignment under stress. Strong muscles essentially function as a suit of amour that helps protect the body against injury. Stronger muscles also create the potential for more efficient movement patterns and joint stability. We recommend young athletes begin with mastering fundamental movement patterns such as the hip hinge, squat, lunge, push-up and chin-up with their own body-weight. Once they show proficiency, we believe in progressing athletes to moderate weights that can be executed properly in the 8-12 rep range.
2. Improve Mobility: Proper function of the ankle, knee, hip, thoracic spine and shoulders are essential for injury prevention because stiffness in one joint will cause unwanted compensatory movement in another. For example, an athlete with tight ankles will more than likely have knees that collapse inward when jumping or squatting. By addressing the ankle tension, the knee will be allowed to function with proper alignment thus decreasing its risk for injury. We recommend establishing a daily 10-minute dynamic warm-up/mobility routine that addresses the ankles, hips, glutes, thoracic spine and shoulders. Simply spending 30-40 seconds performing a few movements that facilitate proper function of each joint and the muscles responsible for its movement will go a long way.
3. Practice Landing/Deceleration Mechanics: Learning how to properly absorb a jump, change direction and decrease speed should be a daily component of every athlete's training. Simply practicing better movement mechanics can be a huge difference maker when you consider the fact that the highest percentage of knee injuries occur when an athlete is coming down after a jump, cutting or stopping. Asking a developing athlete to run at full speed or jump as high as possible without teaching them how to stop or land is a disaster waiting to happen. We recommend incorporating deceleration and landing drills into the warm-up portion of an athletes' workouts. Introducing drills while athletes are fresh and moving at a warm-up pace is a great way to help them efficiently process and execute the new movement patterns.
There is no way to 100% prevent injuries with the random and chaotic nature of sports, however we owe it to our athletes to do everything possible to limit the risk factor. Give the three tips above a shot and see the difference it makes. Always remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
Run by Will Harris (5x Delaware's Strongest Man) and Brandon Davis (Level 2 USAW Olympic Weightlifting Coach), Rehoboth Beach Barbell Club provides expert Strength & Conditioning programs for all levels of training advancement. For additional info or questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.rehobothbarbell.com.