ACL Injuries

Although many believe ACL injuries should not be prevalent in softball, I had an unforgettable experience witnessing just that.

It was the first round of the playoffs for my oldest daughter’s team, and the opposition was the #1 ranked team in the league. The opposing team was so confident, that they had banners in their gym inviting everyone to the league championship two days away. This win was a foregone conclusion. Well, my daughter’s team was down by one run, as my daughter was standing on second base with one out. Her friend, Dana was at the plate. Dana drilled a ball to left field, which my daughter easily scored on to tie the game. Dana, however, never made it out of the batter’s box. After hitting the ball, she collapsed in pain a few feet in front of the batter’s box. The opposing team relayed the ball from leftfield and threw Dana out at first. Dana was eventually moved from the field and taken to the hospital to reveal an anterior cruciate ligament injury. After my daughter’s team upset the regular season champions, they would go on and win the championship. Dana is in the picture (below) with the knee brace two days later.

 An ACL injury to a key player could not end their championship dreams

Among the list of common sports injuries, ACL injuries rank fairly high. Female athletes in particular experience ACL injuries 4-10 times more frequently than men. It’s important to realize that injury in sports like softball can be prevented, but to do so an athlete must understand how their body works.

An anterior cruciate ligament injury (ACL) basically over-stretches or tears the knee ligament. Symptoms of a serious strain include hearing a popping sound when the injury occurs, swelling, and pain when weight is applied to the knee. Less serious injuries may not manifest so obviously. Rather you might feel as if your knee doesn’t support you effectively.

© K.M. Klemencic
Tag the runner or make the throw. Make the simple play

There are various reasons why women are more prone to ACL injuries than men. First, there’s knee anatomy. The ligament in your knee connects two bones – the femur and the tibia, giving your knee strength and stability. The notch where the ACL resides is narrower on women, limiting the ligament’s movement. That makes the ligament more susceptible to pinching, which in turn can cause tearing. Additionally, the width of a woman’s pelvis increases the overall amount of force on the knee, particularly when twisted or turned increasing the likelihood of a rupture. There is also some evidence to suggest that hormones can shift overall tendon and muscle flexibility, leaving the ACL providing extra support.

Beyond this many female athletes begin their conditioning later in life than men. That means that even when they begin to compete, their muscles may not have reached optimum strength. Reflexes likewise may be immature compared to a male athlete who trained very young. This also leaves the ACL open to injury.

The good news is that there are ways for women to reduce ACL injuries through various exercises. The focus in training should be on conditioning for dexterity, balance and strength. It’s vital that any activity be proceeded by a good warm up and stretching the calf, quadricept, hamstring, inner thigh and hips. Afterward move into strengthening exercises like lunges. Next move on to Plyometrics (jumps and hops of various types with soft landings) to improve overall speed and control. Finally create a routine of agility drills followed by a cool down period. Remember to treat this type of training like a daily vitamin – it’s important to protecting your knees and supports overall muscle and joint health. By using this type of daily regiment you can avoid ACL injuries, or minimally reduce the number of them during your sports activities.

© K.M. Klemencic
Fastpitch softball is a game of inches. You make the call!

You can find additional information on ACL injuries and how you can prevent them on this site. Barton Anderson, a certified athletic trainer, provides some additional background and steps you can take to protect your daughter against this injury.

NOTE: The information provided above, as with everything on Fastpitch-Softball-coaching, is subject to the Disclaimer. This is not intended to be medical advice, and we suggest you consult with your physician prior to altering any course of action.

More on ACL Prevention and Recovery

Below you will find additional information on ACL injury prevention as well as knee braces should the worst occur. If you do not find exactly what you are looking for, click on the store name to go directly to the store's website to search more easily.

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