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Preventing Knee Injuries In Sporting Populations

Published: April 9, 2019

Preventing Knee Injuries In Sporting Populations

Knee injuries are a common occurrence in sport and can result in multiple weeks spent on the sidelines. One of the most frequent knee injuries is tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), with an estimated incidence of 1 in 3500. 72-95% of ACL injuries occur in non-contact situations such as landing after a jump, abruptly stopping or sudden changes in direction. These movements are typically seen in fast paced ball sports, including football, soccer, basketball, handball and netball.

Within the knee, there are four ligaments that help to provide stability to the joint, two collateral ligaments and two cruciate ligaments. The collateral ligaments are on the sides of the knee joint, and help to control sideways movement of the knee. The cruciate ligaments are within the knee joint and form an “X” to control the forwards and backwards movement of the knee. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) prevents the tibia from moving forwards out of the joint, and also provides rotational stability to the knee. When the ACL is injured, other structures within the knee may also be damaged, such as the articular cartilage, meniscus, and collateral ligaments.


Many prevention programs have been developed and are recommended for at risk sporting populations. These programs have similar properties and components, and have been effective in reducing the amount of knee injuries in sporting populations. Research shows the earlier athletes begin a prevention program the less likely they are to have a knee injury. This includes conducting the program during pre-season sessions, and continuing it throughout the regular season. The duration of training focused on preventing knee injuries should be longer than 20 minutes and completed at least three days a week, including prior to trainings, practices and games. All ages are recommended to implement prevention programs, especially those aged 12 to 25 years old.


The exercises completed in the prevention programs can be tailored to the specific needs of each athlete and the demands of their sport. The literature suggests multiple exercise components are required to successfully prevent sport-related knee injuries. These components include flexibility and dynamic stretching of lower limbs, running in different directions, strengthening the lower limbs and core muscles, and plyometric exercises (high intensity interval exercises). All exercises can be tailored to the individual through screening assessments conducted at the beginning of the program. If you think you are at risk of a knee injury, or you play a fast paced sport, give us call at Back In Motion Prospect on 8269 3800 to make an appointment with one of our physiotherapists to discuss implementing a prevention program.



Arundale, A., Bizzini, M., Giordano, A., Hewett, T., Logerstedt, D., Mandelbaum, B., . . . Snyder-

Mackler, L. (2018). Exercise-Based Knee and Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Prevention. The Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy, 48(9), A1-A42.