I'm entering my first practice season on a college soccer team. My entire college education depends on the athletic scholarship I'm going to school on. Lots of my teammates in high school had ACL tears and missed entire seasons of sports. How can I keep this from happening to me?

ACL injuries are common in athletes who jump, pivot, twist, or make sudden cutting movements. Girls are four to six times more likely than men to injure the ACL. Scientists aren't sure why but they are studying this problem closely.

The latest findings suggest a problem with neuromuscular control. Any muscle weakness, loss of power, or failure to activate the muscles can lead to increased knee load. When the load is too much for the muscles, the ligaments tear or rupture.

One thing to watch for is a difference in strength from side to side. If one leg is 20 percent (or more) stronger than the other leg, there may be a neuromuscular imbalance. An athletic trainer or physical therapist can test you on a variety of hopping tasks. Any differences from side to side may help identify areas of weakness. Neuromuscular training for specific deficits is recommended.