Perhaps the most dreaded injury for basketball players is the season-ending ACL tear. Unfortunately, despite recent advances in ACL injury prevention, a study conducted by orthopedic surgeons at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia found that the number of ACL and meniscus injuries among young athletes has actually dramatically increased over the last 12 years.
This increase is not due to a weakening of ligaments or improper training. Instead, many experts attribute the explosion in ACL injuries to the rising popularity of year-round training and competition. Many young basketball players join several different teams so they can compete all year long. Unfortunately, the extra time on the court provides plenty of extra opportunities for freak injuries.
How ACL Injuries Happen
You can reduce the odds of an ACL injury by understanding why they happen. For basketball players, the most common cause is landing incorrectly from a jump. You're more likely to be injured during a landing if your legs collapse inward, putting stress on the knees, or remain stiff, putting stress on the ligaments.
Preventing ACL Injuries
For basketball players, the best way to avoid ACL injuries is to learn how to land properly. Follow these three simple guidelines to stay safe on the court.
- Avoid placing excess stress on your toes and forefeet when jumping or landing, to prevent knock knees
- Land with your knees and hips bent to absorb impact
- Keep your upper body upright during landing
No matter how much you practice proper technique, you’ll never be able to land properly every single time during a game. That’s why it’s important to strengthen your lower body with exercises that improve stability. Multi-joint exercises like the Squat are perfect for ACL injury prevention because they improve knee stability.
Decrease your odds of an ACL injury even further with these hamstring exercises and tips for preventing knee and ankle injuries.
For more information on the ACL please see the STACK ACL Guide.
Scott Salwasser, CSCS, is a coach at SPARTA Performance Science in Menlo Park, Calif., where he works with athletes from the MLB, NBA and NFL, as well as with collegiate and elite high school athletes. He has worked as a strength and conditioning coach at the Division I level and in the NFL as an intern. Salwasser played football in college and competed as an Olympic style weightlifter. He has a master's degree in kinesiology.