The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of the four major ligaments that provide stability to the knee joint.
ACL injuries are most common in sports that require sudden changes of direction or abrupt stops and starts. There are many situations in which softball players are moving in one direction and are required to stop and/or change directions.
The picture below is a posterior view of the knee.
ACL tears are eight times more likely in female athletes than male athletes. There are many reasons for this—hormonal changes, wider pelvis, increased Q angle (angle of pelvis to knee), and relative lack of strength.
Valgus knee alignment upon landing (knees closer together than hips and feet) is another circumstance that can result in an ACL tear. Valgus can be tested by having an athlete squat with no weight. Look to see if her knees turn in as the depth of the squat increases.
The injury can also occur from a twisting motion. For example, when a infielder makes a quick lateral movement to field a ground ball and her cleats get stuck in the dirt.
Strengthening the entire lower body can decrease the chance of tearing an ACL. Performed correctly, the program below will reduce the risk of injury and increase the athlete’s agility. Each exercise, including the warm-up, should be performed as prescribed. It is much easier to perform a PREP (Prevent and Reduce injury, Enhance Performance) program than to undergo surgery and go through a rehabilitation program.
ACL PREP Program
The program below is designed for both male and female athletes. It should be done 2 or 3 times per week at a minimum. Perform all stretches with 3 sets of 30 seconds.
This ACL PREP Program is intended to increase flexibility, improve strength with plyometric exercises and increase proprioception through agilities.
- Jumping Jacks – 30 seconds
- Mountain Climbers – 30 seconds
XT ACL PREP Program (recommended 2 or 3 times a week)
- Jumping Jacks – 10 reps
- Mountain Climbers – 10 reps
- Calf Stretch – 30 seconds each leg
- Quadriceps Stretch – 30 seconds each leg
- Hamstring Stretch – 30 seconds each leg
- Butterfly – 30 seconds
- Hip Flexor Stretch – 30 seconds each leg
- Toe Taps – 30 seconds as fast possible
- Lateral Hops Over a Cone -30 seconds
- Single-Leg Forward and Backward Hops Over a Cone – 30 seconds
- Vertical Jumps (30 seconds)