The Dreaded ACL

Those words you never want to hear your health professional say “you’ve ruptured your ACL”, they can bring a grown man to tears. It is that time of year again when unsuspecting skiers and snowboarders walk into the clinic with a swollen knee that isn’t too painful but “just doesn’t feel right”.

The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four major knee ligaments. The ACL is critical to knee stability. ACLinjuries make up 10-15% of all skifield injuries.

The ACL attaches to the knee end of the Femur (thigh bone), at the back of the joint and passes down through the knee joint to the front of the flat upper surface of the Tibia (shin bone).

A torn ACL usually occurs through a twisting force being applied to the knee whilst the foot is firmly planted on the ground or upon landing. Your knee is only designed to bend and straighten.  When an ACLinjury occurs, you may feel a pop within the knee, the sensation of the knee “giving out” significant swelling over the few hours after injury and have difficulty straightening your knee. 

Can we prevent ACL injuries? Unfortunately some times the mechanism and forces are just too great but we can certainly be aware and try to protect our knees on the ski fields. 

  • Do conditioning and strengthening exercises of the quadriceps and hamstring before ski season starts. This is the number one protection. See our winter exercises.
  • Ski/Ride easier at the end of the day, when you are typically fatigued. Avoid difficult trails, big air, lots of moguls, and speed on ice. Take it easy in the late afternoon.
  • Be careful getting on and off chairlifts.
  • Do regular stretching exercises for the hamstrings, quadriceps, hip, back, shoulder. The more you stretch, the less likely you are to snap.
  • Use gear that is fit to you and is tuned up.
  • Check your bindings for release tension. Do not set them too tight!