Prevention is the best medicine. While there's no way to ensure that you will never have an ACL injury, there are some things you can do to lower your risk of getting injured. Below are three things identified in the literature that may help you avoid an ACL injury.
It should come as no surprise that good footwear can help you avoid a nasty ACL injury, not to mention other nagging injuries that athlete's suffer. This is especially athlete's who require cleated shoes. It's been shown that flat or pivot-disc style shoes have a reduced risk of injury because the lower the about of torsion at the knee.
While this is mostly out of your control, it seems that playing on artificial turf puts you at higher risk of ACL injury than on natural surface. This, again, has to do with the about of torsion and the knee because of the great friction of the artificial turf compared to natural surfaces.
A major focus of research into preventing ACL injuries has been on neuromuscular control of the knee. This is done in an effort to reduce the amount of muscle imbalance between the hamstrings and quadriceps. Many programs have been developed, but one of the first and most ost significant was developed by Henning in the 80s. The basis of his program was to reduce the strain put on the ACL by the quadriceps by having athletes practicing landing, changing direction while running, and stopping with the hips and knees in slight flexion.
Another notable program is the PEP (Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance) Program - which consisted of sport specific training including warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometrics, and agility training.
The programs mentioned above along with the Sportsmetric Program developed by Hewett and Noyles, and proprioceptive training based off the work of Caraffa et al. (1996) have been shown to be largely effective in reducing the incidence of AClL injury rates by up to 90%.
Next up, Part 3: Treatment