Female athletes should be careful of ACL tears

January 15, 2013

Topic: injury prevention

Female athletes should be careful of ACL tears

Athletes know that proper injury prevention, such as warming up and stretching, can prevent orthopaedic problems from occurring. However, research published in the Journal of the the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons discusses how some mishaps like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are three times more prevalent in females than males.

A common knee injury
ACL sprains and tears are some of the most common knee injuries that are seen by orthopaedic surgeons. Individuals who play high-impact sports, such as football, basketball and soccer, have an especially elevated risk of experiencing them. The injury occurs if a person gets hit very hard on the side of his or her knee, overextends the knee joint, or quickly stops moving and changes direction while running, landing from a jump or turning, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Symptoms of ACL tears include a popping sound at the time of the injury, knee swelling hours afterward and orthopaedic pain that occurs when weight is placed on the affected joint.

Pelvic angle
Females may be more prone to ACL injuries than males because of a key anatomical difference - their hips. Women have a larger quadriceps angle that places a greater pull on knee muscles during physical activities, making them more susceptible to the mishap than men.

Another reason that females may have an increased risk for ACL injuries is the way they jump, according to Pietro Tonino, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist. This is because the shape of the female pelvis causes them to land from a jump with their knees locked, placing pressure on the knees.

Some easy injury prevention methods that women can perform include keeping the knees slightly bent and sticking the buttocks out when landing a jump, as well as routinely strengthening the hamstring muscles with weight training.

"All female athletes, starting in adolescence, should learn appropriate training techniques," said the study's lead author Karon Sutton, M.D., an assistant professor at Yale University. "This includes the appropriate way to land from a jump, increasing the strength of muscles that could have a protective effect on the ACL - core, gluteal, quadriceps and hamstring muscles - as well as working on the body's reaction to change of direction and change of speed."

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