The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is one of four major ligaments of the knee joint. It originates from a deep notch on the end of the femur and attaches to the tibia.
Dancers typically suffer fewer ACL injury than other athletes (Liederbach, Dilgen & Rose, 2008). The predictability of dance compared to competitive contact sports such as soccer, as well as the attention to alignment, balance, and control lend dancers a slightly reduced risk of experiencing an ACL injury. Nonetheless, they can occur and are usually traumatic in nature. ACL injury typically occurs in one of three ways: jump landings (especially in turn-out with a valgus stress on the knee), contact with another person, or excessive loading on the knee joint during a pivot or cutting movement.
According to Kiapour & Murray (2014), most ACL injuries occur during deceleration of the body, typically in a sudden stopping or cutting movement. In a typical 90-minute class, a dancer could perform more than 200 jumps with forces sometimes amounting to 12-times the dancer’s body weight. Even so, dancers exhibit relatively low incidence of ACL injury compared to other athletes. In a comparison of 298 dancers over five years, female modern dancers were at a higher risk for injury than male modern dancers or ballet dancers of either gender. The majority of injuries tended to occur toward the end of a performance season and late in the day, suggesting that fatigue and inattention to alignment may play a role. Modern dance has a higher degree of improvisation, which may also contribute to an increased risk for injury compared with ballet dancers (Liederbach, Dilgen & Rose, 2008). ACL injury can occur in conjunction with medial collateral ligament and/or meniscus injuries.
A tear of the ACL often requires surgical reconstruction. In a follow-up study of 6 dancers who underwent reconstructive surgury, all of them felt insecurity in landing from jumps and have retired from professional performance (Meuffels & Verhaar, 2008).
Care should be taken to prevent fatigue in a dancer’s training schedule and paying attention to jump landings, specifically to over-rotation of the supporting leg (placing excessive valgus stress on the knee) and pronation of the foot.
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