With the right training, many ACL injuries can be prevented. More than 70 percent of them occur during deceleration and change of direction. A sprinting player tries to make a cut, plants his foot on the ground, and—pop!—the ACL tears. When the foot hits the ground with force, the tibia and femur shift in different directions, causing the injury.
Last season in a game against the Denver Broncos, Reggie Wayne of the Indianapolis Colts tore his ACL while running a pass route. Nobody was around, but as he planted his foot to turn and slow down for an under-thrown pass, his ACL gave out. His season was done. You can see the video here.
This is why it's so important for athletes to train deceleration, a skill that's often overlooked with all the emphasis on acceleration and explosiveness.
Here are five deceleration exercises that can significantly reduce your chances of suffering a season-ending ACL tear.
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1. Box Drops
Stand on a 12-inch plyo box. Step off the box and land on both feet. Flex your knees when you hit the ground to properly absorb the landing. Perform 10 repetitions.
2. 2-Foot Hop, 1-Foot Land
Standing on two feet, hop 6 to 8 inches in the air and land on one foot. Maintain balance for about 2 seconds. Perform 10 repetitions landing on each leg.
3. Single-Leg 45-Degree Leaps
Standing on one foot, leap forward at a 45-degree angle and land on the opposite foot, making sure to bend that knee and properly decelerate. Maintain balance for about 2 seconds before leaping in the opposite direction. Perform 10 leaps in each direction for a total of 20 leaps.
Start on one foot. Leap directly sideways and land on the opposite foot, bending the knee, fully decelerating and maintaining balance for about 2 seconds before leaping back in the opposite direction. Perform 10 repetitions in each direction for a total of 20 skaters.
5. Box Drill
Set up four cones in a 5-yard-square pattern. Sprint in a straight line from the first cone to the second cone. Properly decelerate by sinking your hips, chopping your feet, bending your knees and planting your outside foot to change directions. Come to a complete stop before sprinting to the next cone. Perform 2 sets in each direction.
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