Staying Healthy: ABCs of the ACL

By Justin A. McCoy, DO | Posted 8/17/2020

As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic and isolation that can occur through social distancing and other precautions we need to take, many athletes are wondering how to prepare for when we return to some sense of normal life.

In some parts of the country, youth sports have restarted with limitations.

But what can be done for athletes trying to stay active and are unable to return to full sports activities at this time?

Individual workouts can be hard to do but here are some ideas that can help once we get back to playing sports and can keep our kids from going stir crazy.

The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is a very important band of tough, flexible connective tissue in the knee. Many of the motions required for sports (running, cutting, jumping, twisting, etc.) require a functional ACL. ACL injuries are devastating for athletes because they require surgery and the recovery can keep athletes out of practice and games for up to 12 months.

ACL injuries are common in sports. On average females are more likely to suffer an injury to the ACL than males. Females are more likely to tear their ACL between the ages of 14-18 while males are more likely to do so between the ages of 19-25. After ACL reconstruction surgery, only about 60-90% of athletes return to their sport and this typically occurs 8-18 months after their surgery.

Many exercise programs are developed to help reduce ACL injury risk of in both males and females. These are typically 20-minute programs that can be used as a warm-up prior to additional training. These types of exercises may be best to start once a child reaches teenage years as most children don’t injure the ACL earlier.

Working on improving hamstring strength and function, equal/symmetrical strength of the legs, and better control of core musculature are simple things that can decrease risk of ACL injury. All of this can be done at home by yourself or with a few people in small groups.

Additional sources for insight on ACL-related medical literature:


Dr. Justin McCoy advances the health of athletes through SCL Health in Grand Junction, Colo. He is a member of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine and the Performing Arts Medical Association. He also serves on the Western Colorado Concussion Alliance. Dr. McCoy provides comprehensive medical care to both non-athletes and athletes alike, spanning recreational to professional levels.