Did you know that female athletes are as much as ten times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than their male counterparts?
Differences in pelvis width, the size of the ACL and the intercondylar notch (where the ACL crosses the knee joint), are all thought to play a role. What’s more, the upper part of a female’s shin bone at the joint is much shorter and more rounded than a male’s, which creates a greater laxity in the joint. Women also tend to have an inward angle to their knees, otherwise known as knocked knees, which places more stress across the outer knee joint and ligaments, particularly when it comes to sudden or extreme movements, such as an abrupt change in direction or pivot. Women also move differently than men. For instance, they tend to land from a jump with their knees in a somewhat straight position, pulling on the quadriceps rather than the hamstrings. Because of this, the force of the impact is transferred to the knee, creating a high risk for an ACL rupture. Men, on the other hand, are better able to absorb the impact because they tend to land with bent knees.
For these reasons, it is crucial for female athletes of all ages to modify their natural biomechanics through neuromuscular training programs that can teach them better ways to move their bodies and protect their knees, said orthopedic surgeon Katie Vadasdi, MD, who heads the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at ONS. “Through neuromuscular training programs, we can help female athletes significantly reduce the risk of ACL ruptures by developing balance between the quadriceps and hamstrings and improving the landing biomechanics with more bent knees and hips to avoid a knock-kneed position on impact.”
Preventing ACL injuries has both near and long term benefits so the sooner you get started with this kind of a conditioning program the better. Studies indicate that there is a tenfold increase in the incidence of osteoarthritis in the knees of women who suffered an ACL injury at some point in their lives. Moreover, injuries that were incurred during youth seem to result in the onset of osteoarthritic symptoms at a much earlier age in adulthood.