Summer may be winding down, and while that's sad, we know that fall brings a ton of fun too. From football and tennis to soccer and field hockey, there are a ton of sports to be played. Unfortunately, the fall sports season means that the risk for injuries is not far off either.

One of the common injuries in many sports is tearing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. So we've gathered up some tips from our friends at Princeton Spine & Joint Center to help you (or your child) prevent an ACL tear this fall:

1. Always warm-up prior to play.
You can get the blood circulating to your muscles and joints before you start your game or practice.

2. Make sure to stretch your iliotibial band (ITB), hips and calf muscles.
Stretching will help you stay flexible enough to move freely so you can maintain an ideal form during the game.

3. Strengthen your hip abductors, quadriceps, and core abdominal muscles.
Some particularly good exercises for this include front and side lunges, squats, planks, side planks, and pelvic tilts. You'll pay attention to any areas that are particularly tight as well.

4. Be sure to include agility and plyometric exercises in your routine.
Get in shape to play; don’t play to get in shape. It's important to always practice injury prevention but it helps to start thinking about this before the season starts as you get in shape for your sport.

5. Emphasize the quality of the exercise rather than speed or quantity.
Good repetition of an exercise is far better and more effective than five bad ones. So take the time to learn how to do the exercise properly, and remember to breathe while exercising. Keep in mind the popular Special Forces operators slogan: "Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast."

Even with the best prevention, injuries still do happen, and you should always listen to your body. If you have pain that isn't going away, give Princeton Spine & Joint Center a call at 609-454-0760 and let them help you design a program that works for you and your goals.

Sometimes you can't prevent an injury. That's OK. Remember that working with a physical therapist for a few sessions and/or an athletic trainer may make sense. It will limit the time you're kept off the playing field.