Female Athletes at Increased risk for ACL Injury
Over the past decade the speed, power and intensity displayed by female athletes has increased making them 2-10 times more likely to sustain a knee ligament injury such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury. More aggressive styles of play has led to an increase in musculoskeletal injuries especially in female athletes who participate in jumping and pivoting sports such as soccer, basketball and volleyball.
Most ACL injuries occur by non-contact mechanisms:
- One-step/stop deceleration
- Cutting movements
- Sudden change in direction
- Landing from a jump with inadequate knee and hip flexion
- Lapse of concentration (resulting from unanticipated change in the direction of play)
There is no easy explanation as to why female athletes are more prone to non-contact ACL injuries. Research shows that female athletes run and cut sharply in a more erect posture than men, and they bend their knees less when landing from a jump. There is also debate on the opinion that another explanation could be the anatomical and hormonal differences between men and women. Another cause is a wider pelvis. Women have a “Q” angle, which makes the thigh bone angle downward more sharply then in men. This alignment makes women’s knees bend more inward when they land which could predispose women to ACL injuries.
Recent studies tells us that the rate of ACL injuries among women can be reduced by following a proper neuromuscular training and conditioning program called Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) (http://www.aclprevent.com/pepexercises.pdf) before practices and games. The PEP program consists of a series of 19 warm-up, stretching, strengthening, plyometric, and sports specific agility exercises that can be done in 30 minutes without any specialized equipment.
In general, experts say that there are four ways to reduce the risk of ACL injuries:
- Proper leg muscles strength training and core training
- Proper neuromuscular (balance and speed) training
- Proper coaching on jumping and landing and avoiding any straight knee landing
- Proper footwear that gives optimal traction to allow peak performance in sports with cutting and stopping
Reference: American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Bob Dunaway, ATC
Bob graduated with a B.S. Degree from Memphis State University in 1988. He became a Certified Athletic Trainer January 1990, and has worked in sports medicine outreach with area high schools and college level athletics since graduation. He served as the Athletic Trainer for world basketball league Memphis Rockers for two seasons & has been with Memphis Orthopaedic Group since 2011. Bob covers St. Mary’s Episcopal School and Southwest Tennessee Community College. He is a Certified Instructor Trainer for the American Heart Association Certified Ergonomic Specialist.