When it comes to sports injuries, nothing cuts a season — or career — short faster than an ACL tear.
Your knee contains four major ligaments that provide support and stability. The ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, has two primary jobs: keeping your shinbone from moving too far forward and limiting how much your knee rotates.
ACL injuries can occur for numerous reasons, such as:
- Landing a jump incorrectly
- Stopping suddenly
- Quickly changing direction or twisting
- Colliding with someone or something
While anyone can injure their ACL, the risk is 2-8 times higher in female athletes than males. Fortunately, there are ways to avoid this season-ending sports injury.
Dr. Jared Tadje specializes in sports medicine and ACL reconstruction at Tadje Orthopaedics in Meridian, Idaho. He offered these insights into why female athletes experience more ACL tears and how to prevent this injury.
ACL injuries and women
We often associate sports injuries with collisions or direct impact. But 70% of those involving the ACL occur from physical maneuverings, like pivoting, changing direction sharply, or jumping and landing.
Why do female athletes experience these injuries more often? There’s actually a lot of debate surrounding this topic. The most conclusive evidence supports anatomical and biomechanical differences between women and men.
The knee relies on two different factors for stability: static and dynamic stabilizers. Static stabilizers include major ligaments, like the ACL. Dynamic stabilizers describe tendons and muscles surrounding the joint.
Research shows that women have different anatomical and biomechanical movements in the knee when jumping, pivoting, and landing — all movements that often cause ACL injury.
How anatomy and biomechanics come into play
Female and male athletes have a variety of physical differences, including their knees. Women have a smaller groove that holds the ACL in place, and the ACL itself is smaller. But that’s not all.
Women are often more knock-kneed because of the width of the pelvis. This alignment difference causes the knees to bend inward when a woman lands jumps, putting strain on the ACL as it tries to maintain stability.
In addition to anatomical differences, women also have different biomechanics. For example, they often land a jump flat-footed, not on the balls of their feet, which increases pressure on the knees. Similarly, women usually run more upright and have an imbalanced quadricep/hamstring ratio.
How female athletes can avoid ACL tears
Fortunately, you don’t have to give up sports to live an injury-free life. Instead, you just need better biomechanics and training regimens to provide your body with safer, more stable movements and less stress on your joints.
As an experienced sports medicine specialist, Dr. Tadje can help develop a personalized training strategy designed to protect your knees from ACL injury. These programs often include:
- Analyzing your biomechanics
- Creating sport-specific strengthening and stretching regimens
- Training techniques for jumping, landing, and agility
- Strengthening exercises for the core and legs
- Teaching proper warmup and cooldown activities
And if you’ve already sustained an ACL injury, Dr. Tadje can help you recover as quickly as possible and avoid reinjury in the future. Healing from ACL surgery can take at least six months, so prevention should always take priority for female athletes.
Are you a female athlete? Learn more about ACL tears, prevention, and reconstruction by scheduling an appointment with Dr. Tadje by calling 208-515-2654 today.