It was my senior year of high school. The big world of college was quickly approaching and I was ready to be the ‘big man on campus‘. I worked hard all summer and went to camp so that I could truly shine this year on the basketball court. I had always been the type of athlete that never really stood out, but was a great support player. This year was going to be different, I worked my butt off so that this year I could finally shine! On the second day of practice, I was in a drill with no defenders, just me and the ball. I cut right and my knee went left. As quickly as the pain hit, I heard a pop & fell to the ground while yelling some choice words that would make the nuns at my school need ‘earmuffs‘. This was the beginning to a long senior year filled with pain, surgery, rehab…not friends, parties or basketball! I was officially diagnosed with a torn ACL, torn meniscus, torn lateral co-ligaments and a stress fracture in my tibia two months later (that is another story – horrible doctor’s misdiagnosis & Physical Therapy leading to further damage to my knee). UGH!
Recently I was reminded of this time in my life as I helped my husband rehab his knee following his ACL replacement surgery. I also had to refer my client to a good orthopedic after tearing hers playing tennis. I have always wondered why I see so many adults with this injury and why so many women. So I did some research…
1. Adults are weekend warriors! We love to play all of our activities hard and on the weekends when we have time. We feel like we are 20, so we play that hard too.
2. Most of our exercise and strength training is not ‘Functional’. If we love to play basketball on the weekend, some of our fitness training should mimic that exercise. In order to strengthen our bodies we should add in quick lateral movements and jumps squats. These are exercises that are functional to the sport we enjoy playing on the weekends or on Tuesday night.
3. Women are at a disadvantage anatomically. The angles we have from our hips to our knees to our ankles are exaggerated and put constant stress on several ligaments. We love our hips and curves, but they may be setting us up for disaster. For example, when most women jump squat, their knee tend to cave inward. This is stressing the ligaments in the knee.
4. Women have different nerve impulse activity to our muscles than men. Recently, Scientists at Oregon State University found “that men control nerve impulses similar to individuals trained for explosive muscle usage – like those of a sprinter – while the nerve impulses of women are more similar to those of an endurance-trained athlete, like a distance runner.” (http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/244276.php) These difference can lead to variations in our muscular responses.
5. Warming up is important! Warming up for at least 15 minutes before an activity with fast, twisting or lateral movements can help prevent tearing your ACL. Scientists and coaches all over the world have seen a rapid decline in ACL tears (especially in women’s sports) when they have incorporated a functional warmup before practice and games.
For those of us who love playing sports and playing outside, we want to continue do the things we love for as long as we can. An injury like an ACL tear can be a devastating event for us later in life. Some choose not to repair, but if you want to remain physically active, most medical professional suggest you get it repaired. It was very interesting to see the differences in the rehab for my husband compared to mine back in the early 90’s. He is back and stronger than ever…enjoying all the sports he loved before! The better we take care of our body, the more we will get out of it!