Remember when Alex Morgan suffered that knee injury during the Thorns FC vs. Boston Breakers match and scared us all half-to-death? Luckily, it’s just an MCL sprain, but at the time, everybody had feared the worst: an ACL tear. ACL injuries are one of the most common and most dreaded injuries for young women playing soccer. In fact, women are 2-8 times more likely to tear their ACL than men.
So, what exactly is the ACL? ACL stands for “anterior cruciate ligament” and it is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. It’s the part that prevents your knee from getting out of alignment when you pivot or quickly change directions.
What happens when you tear your ACL? It’s actually pretty interesting. You can still walk normally, but if you try to pivot or quickly change directions, your knee will shift out of place and probably give out, which hurts a lot. In fact, you can still play some sports with a torn ACL, so long as you’re not quickly changing directions or working it too hard. Some people never even bother to get the surgery to fix their ACL and just go through rehab and physical therapy for it. Just last week I met a woman whose dog had torn its ACL, but she decided not to put her dog through surgery because fixing the dog’s ACL wasn’t necessary. It just meant that the dog could no longer be a show dog. Generally, though, especially for young women, doctors encourage that you have your ACL surgically repaired. In the long run, it’s usually better for your injured knee. Plus, it would suck to not be able to play soccer!!! My sister tore her ACL a few weeks ago and she’ll be getting the surgery to fix it in about a week
What causes an ACL tear? This is actually a kind of tough question. There’s no one thing that automatically causes it. In some cases, it’s because of a rough tackle from another player, while in others it’s due to not having strong enough support muscles and taking a wrong step. The good news is that there are a lot of things you can do to protect yourself from ACL tears. Here’s a great video, featuring Ali Krieger, that demonstrates an easy set of exercises to help prevent ACL injuries: