Speed and Agility Drills to Reduce ACL Injury Risk

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Last week I went over some strength exercises that can help an athlete resist knee injuries.

The really ironic thing is that I thought I had blown my knee out this past weekend. On Saturday, I was watching Star Wars and trying to watch as much as I can. For whatever reason, Empire didn’t start until 10. Who can stay up that late?

Anyway, I fell asleep on the couch and woke up at midnight. I got up in a frenzy and went to the bathroom. Next thing I know, I fainted/collapsed and my right knee was all messed up. I must say that I’m more concerned about fainting than my knee though.

Luckily, no swelling and it feels pretty good today. This is after my co owner of Evolution tore his patella tendon 2 months ago. Not a good time for knees on the Evolution Staff.

Back to preventing these injuries…

The two best ways to train to resist ACL injuries are strength training and agility/change of direction work.

Non contact ACL injuries happen when decelerating. There is a reason that sprinters will typically pull a hamstring but soccer players are more likely to tear something. Running in a straight line does not stress the knee ligaments.

Being able to decelerate is key to being quick and resisting injury. Changing direction happens in three planes. It can happen in front of us, laterally, and diagonally. Athletes must be prepared to handle the force required to slow down in all of these phases.

The biggest area for growth in most athletes is their ability to decelerate.

Linear Deceleration 

Being able to stop a sprint, facing forward is linear deceleration. This happens a lot in sport.

Some examples include:

  1. Landing a broad jump
  2. Running to a spot and stopping
  3. Transitioning from a sprint to a backpedal

A good single leg version of linear decel is simply landing linear bounds.

The figure 8 and Nebraska are two good drills for linear deceleration

Lateral Deceleration 

Lateral decel happens when an athlete has to stop facing sideways. This can be from moving sideways the whole time or transitioning from a sprint to lateral decel.


Diagonal Deceleration

I am literally making up this term as I go. It is really deceleration in the transverse plane. This is where most athletes spend the least amount of time training. This means that it is where they are most likely going to get hurt.

Heidens are a great way to learn how to decelerate in the transverse plane. We can then take that quality and use it in a drill, like the W. The W drill with all sprints requires cutting, diagonally.

The best thing an athlete can do to prepare against ACL injury risk is to master the decel. It cannot just happen with ladder drills, practices, or running X miles.