Injuring the ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, in the knee can hinder your ability to exercise, play a sport and even walk. A physical therapist or orthopedic doctor will recommend a plan of treatment depending on injury severity. While many have surgery to repair a tear, others may follow a more conservative plan that includes a progressive, modified exercise program. Including stretching as part of your regular exercise program can help prevent ACL injuries from occurring.
Prevent ACL injuries with dynamic flexibility warm-ups prior to exercise and sport. In contrast to static stretching in which you hold a position, dynamic exercises use motion to move and stretch muscles. Avoid stretching cold muscles prior to a workout as this can lead to a muscle pull and increase susceptibility to ACL injuries. Warm up with light aerobic activity such as jogging, marching and high knee lifts. You can stretch muscles statically after your workout when you are cooling down.
Stretching the hamstrings will increase knee extension and improve knee range of motion. Do this exercise regularly to prevent an ACL injury, or start it with your doctor or physio's approval if you've been injured. Do this stretch when seated on the floor with both legs extended in front of you. Keep your back straight as you lean forward from the waist and reach your arms toward your toes, or until you feel a gentle stretch in the back of the thighs. Hold the stretch for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat three times.
Stretch the calf muscles on the posterior lower leg to prevent and treat ACL injuries. Do a standing heel drop stretch by standing on a step with your heels just hanging off of the edge. Hold onto a rail or wall lightly for support. Put your body weight into your heels so they drop over the edge and you feel a stretch in the calves. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and repeat three times.
The quadriceps muscle provides support to the knee joint during walking, running and jumping activities. Strong and flexible thigh muscles will decrease the stress taken through the knee joint during high-impact activities as well as decrease risks of ACL injuries. Do a quadriceps stretch by standing tall with your left knee bent so your foot is reaching towards your buttocks. Grab the ankle of your left leg to raise it toward your butt and further increase the stretch. Avoid bending at the waist during this stretch by maintaining a straight posture. Hold approximately 20 to 30 seconds, then repeat on the opposite leg.
- Move Forward: Physical Therapist's Guide To Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Tear
- Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques: Carolyn Kisner & Lynn Allen Colby; 2012
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.