ACL is located in the knee and it connects thighbone and shinbone. It prevents the shinbone from moving or translating forwards during running by stabilising the knee. ACL could be damaged by falling, twisting motion or a direct hit to the knee. Spraining the ACL, could lead to a partial tear, or a complete rupture. In severe cases, spraining the ACL along with other knee ligaments could tear meniscus or cartilage.
Immediately after an ACL tear, one might experience pain, swelling, impaired knee function or joint instability. The severity of these symptoms may vary based on the damage caused by the injury. For example, some individuals might have no knee instability after a partial ACL tear, whereas others might experience knee instability that inhibits normal walking and running.
Conservative rehabilitation of torn ACL include managing pain, swelling and regaining strength and stability in normal knee movements. After reaching the set goal one might progress back in their normal running schedule. However, wearing a knee brace while running may help eliminate persistent knee instability and pain after rehabilitation.
Almost 90 percent of people with knee instability who do not undergo surgical repair. Secondary injuries like meniscus tears and arthritis may lead to additional pain and swelling, impairing one’s ability to run long-term. Chronic knee instability and secondary injuries may also lead to muscle loss or atrophy, adhesions or scar tissue build-up and a decrease in one’s knee’s range of motion. Therefore, receiving the appropriate treatment and returning to normal activities only after one’s knee is healed is a must for preventing future knee injuries while running.
If symptoms persist after rehabilitation or if one might have ruptured the ACL severely, it’s only then a physician recommend undergoing surgery before resuming running. After rehabilitation, one is required to reduce their running pace and distance temporarily. Any alterations or inefficiencies such as a slight limp in one’s running gait can decrease their athletic performance and increase the risk for future injuries.
How to Prevent ACL Injuries
A reason behind ACL injuries being universally dreaded by athletes is that they are serious, debilitating, and common; but that doesn’t mean they cannot be prevented. In fact, simple measures can reduce the risk of experiencing an ACL tear.
Balance is the Key
Improving balance and strengthening the small muscles of the feet, ankles, legs, and knees can help to prevent unnatural twists and pivots that cause ACL tears and improve resilience and reaction time. The majority of ACL injuries that occur during sports activity result from a quick change of direction, a sudden slow down or stop, a faulty landing, or a collision.
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