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Why Are Female Athletes More Prone To ACL Injuries

On average, the rate of non-contact ACL injuries in females is between 70 to 80 percent and is 2 to 9 times more likely to happen than in males, with an average increased incidence of 3.5–4. Part of the reason is female physiology; women’s wider hips increase the angle at which the femur and the tibia meet, which can place greater stress on the ACL. Moreover, the intercondylar notch, at the bottom of the femur, where it meets the knee is smaller in females, which could restrict the movement of the ACL. Biomechanics is another factor; because of the female body’s muscle makeup, when jumping or cutting females take longer to generate maximum hamstring torque and activate the quadriceps first, rather than the hamstring, as opposed to their male counterparts cites the journal of Current Reviews in Musculoskeletal Medicine. These factors could predispose females to ACL injury. However, as with any athlete, prevention programs initiated prior to the onset of puberty, to strengthen knee joints and promote correct neuromuscular and biomechanical patterns, are the most effective at reducing the risks of ACL injury.

The most common type of ACL injury seen in female athletes is via a noncontact mechanism. A noncontact ACL injury in sport is an injury in which the athlete tears the ACL during an awkward movement that does not involve direct contact with another athlete. On average 70%–78% of ACL injuries occur via a noncontact mechanism

Noncontact ACL injuries on females are more commonly seen in high risk sports such as soccer, basketball, and volleyball. Most noncontact ACL injuries occur while the individual is landing from a jump, rapidly stopping, cutting, or suddenly decelerating with change in direction. "This is encouraging news" says Danny Arnold, Director at Plex, one of the country's leading centers for Physical Therapy, Transitions Sports Therapy and Sports Performance Training. "The reason for the optimism is because with a proper evaluation and a proper training program, we can improve and lessen the impact of landing from a jump, or that placed when rapidly stopping, cutting, or suddenly decelerating with change in direction, resulting in the less likelihood of the athlete sustaining an ACL injury. And that is why our programs at Plex have given our athletes great results, because it's not just about making someone fast, stronger or condition, but also helping them lessen the changes of injury."

Injury prevention programs should incorporate the following:

  • Balance and Proprioceptive training

  • Landing pattern training

  • Plyometric training

  • Strength training that includes hamstring strengthening and recruitment

  • neuromuscular training/control

Screening tests can be used to identify athletes who are at greater risk for ACL injury and therefore more in need of ACL prevention training. And at the end, the key is to have a preventative program that goes hand-in-hand with a performance program to minimize the chances of an ACL injury.

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