Although women are often said to have better flexibility than men, they are much more likely to experience knee ligament injuries, according to the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Female athletes who participate in sports involving pivoting or jumping, such as basketball, volleyball and soccer, are two to 10 times more likely to injure a knee ligament than their male counterparts. This has significant implications for training, recovery from injury and lifelong joint health.
Mechanisms of ACL Injury in Women
Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament in the knee are most likely to occur when a person is landing from a jump or making a pivoting motion while running. In women, this often occurs when there is a high knee valgus torque, meaning that one knee is pushed inward toward the other. When combined with a shift in body weight over the injured side, this can lead to an ACL injury.
In fact, these two components — high knee valgus torque and lateral motion of the trunk over the injured side — are highly predictive of ACL injury in women but not men. Women have a slightly different neuromuscular configuration that makes them more susceptible to this type of injury.
Men may have slightly stronger muscles in the hips and trunk, allowing them to correct for pivots or unexpected body movements. In contrast, females may be less able to correct for this type of movement, increasing their risk for ACL injuries, which require accurate diagnosis and treatment by sports medicine doctors.
Prevention and Treatment of ACL Injuries
The good news is that women can prevent knee injuries by engaging in specialized training. Neuromuscular training helps women strengthen their knee joints and the related muscles that compensate for unexpected movements. By engaging in plyometric activity, balance exercises and practice of specialized movements while receiving feedback, female athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries. Neuromuscular training helps women adapt their strategies for controlling single-foot and two-footed landings, preventing injuries related to jumping. This training also strengthens muscles in the trunk and hips, stabilizing the knee joint.
Unfortunately, between 50 and 100 percent of female athletes who experience an injury will develop osteoarthritis of the knee over the next 10 to 20 years. This makes prompt diagnosis and treatment essential for future health. Southeast Orthopedic Specialists provides physical therapy to help women (and men!) overcome injuries to the ACL. Contact us today to find out how we can help you recover from injury or prevent future knee problems with neuromuscular training.
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