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Life Lessons: What's your risk for an ACL injury?

Published On: Aug 19 2013 05:00:00 AM EDT

Life Lessons knee injury-prone?

Knee injuries can happen to any athlete, but did you know women are more likely to suffer an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL)  injury than men and young college and high school girls suffer the most?

We have three easy tests you can try at home to see if you or your young athletes are at an increased risk.

Soccer star Alex Short had to cut her season short when she tore her ACL.


"I was just running on it and planted and just my knee buckled on me," she says.

Young women like Alex are four to 10 times more likely to injure their ACL's than men.

"Female athletes have weak hip flexors, weak hip abductors, and with that their knees kind of cave in," explains Stephanie Smith, program coordinator at Sportsmetrics.

Girls like Alex who suffer an ACL injury before age 18 have a 17% chance of re-injury.

Athletes are trained to rely more on their hamstring muscles than quadriceps to protect the knee.

Try these three tests at home to see if you're at risk.

First up: the double leg jump. Start in the squat position.

"So sit their butt back, jump straight up and back down," says Smith. You want to be able to jump and stick into place without wobbling or having your feet or knees turn in.

Next up: the single barrier hop.

"We jump up and over, and make sure the foot is sticking the landing the entire time," says Smith.

Finally, try the hop, hop, stick.

"If you see the knee kind of collapsing inward, that's going to be due to some hip weakness," explains Smith. "So you want to make sure everything is correctly aligned."

If you're out of balance, work on your coordination, muscle strength, and core like Alex, who says her leg is getting stronger after surgery.

"It's getting better and better every day," concludes Short.

Two-thirds of all ACL injuries are the result of an athlete making a sudden move or changing direction.

That's why neuromuscular training like that taught by Sportsmetrics is so important to prevent injury.

Sportsmetrics programs are offered at sports centers all over the country.