Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are one of the most common injuries among athletes. In fact, did you know that there are more than 100,000 to 200,000 ACL ruptures in the United States each year?
But that might not even be the most startling fact about ACL injuries. The truth is that female athletes are two to eight times more likely than male athletes to suffer from an ACL injury, according the
National Institutes of Health. But why is that?
Our team at Parkridge Bone & Joint wants to talk you through the issue.
What is an ACL injury?
The ACL is one of the four main ligaments within the knee that connects the thigh bone to the shinbone at the knee.
ACL injuries can happen during any type of activity, including just walking. But most athletes who experience an ACL tear do so while changing direction.
Because pivoting and switching direction is a common factor in all sports, ACL injuries are common in:
When excessive pressure is put on the knee joint, it can result in a tear to the ACL or other ligaments within the knee. When an ACL tear occurs, the athlete often hears a distinctive "pop" noise, followed by swelling, stiffness and instability in the knee.
Depending on how serious the ACL injury, treatment can range from physical therapy to surgery. If a tear is suspected, it's important to seek prompt medical evaluation, though treatment may not begin immediately.
Female Athletes & the ACL
So, if anyone can play high-impact sports, why do women experience ACL injuries more often than men? Researchers still aren't entirely certain. But it's thought that anatomy plays a key role.
The groove in the femur, which is where the ACL passes, is smaller in females than males. A woman's anatomy also makes her jumping stance different than a man's.
When women land after a jump, their knees tend to bend inward, which puts more strain on the ACL and increases their risk of injury.
Female athletes also run in a more upright position than male athletes. As a result, they have less control over the rotation of the knee, which adds stress to the ACL.
If you have a daughter participating in sports, there are ways you can help lower her risk of an ACL injury. Talk with your doctor or a personal trainer about what he or she suggests.