This is the first in my series “Think Like an Athlete.” I chose to start with ACL wellness because it is a topic that I learned a lot about at a very young age. I suffered my first complete ACL tear at the age of 9, on my right knee, and a second complete ACL tear at the age of 12, on my left knee. In both cases, I had ACL reconstruction using my own hamstring. Following both surgeries was weeks of physical therapy, 12 months of wearing a custom brace, and the bad news that I was out of sports for twelve to fifteen months. It is during this time that I learned that if I want to be an athlete, then I needed to think like one.
I have played baseball, basketball, and football since my early elementary school years. I am a three-sport athlete; therefore, I use all muscle groups on a regular basis. That thought seemed logical to me, but couldn’t have been further from the truth. I learned through physical therapy and rehabilitation at the gym with personal trainers that the type of exercise that athletes participate in during any sports practices, are compound exercises. That means that while at practice they are participating in activities that use more than one major muscle group at a time. Compound exercise serves a purpose, however, if you want to be proactive in preventing injury, it is important that you think like an athlete and make time for exercise routines that isolate one major muscle group at a time.
The ACL, or the anterior cruciate ligament is found behind your knee and forms an “X” with the help of the posterior ligament. The ACL provides rotational stability to the kneecap. A stable knee is what keeps an athlete’s feet under him. The ACL is a ligament that requires special attention through repetitive isolated exercises. The ACL is only as strong as an athlete’s quad and hamstring muscles. ACL wellness also depends on an athlete’s hip and core strength. Look for exercises that isolate these muscles, such as: lunges, squats, side planks, hip bridges, and chops and lifts (for added strengthening use medicine balls). Pay special attention to your agility, balance, form, and how you change direction and land. Good technique is just as important as the exercise itself. The quality of movement should be emphasized over the quantity. You are what you practice and sloppy technique makes for a sloppy athlete. YouTube has many exercise programs that focus on ACL wellness that are easy to follow with step-by-step instructions. Don’t miss out on valuable playing time by standing on the sidelines. Be preventative, and build yourself an injury prevention program that can be done at home.
Stay in the game! If you want to be an athlete-think like one.
Kid Sports Reporter