Active women are at higher risk of sustaining a knee injury than their active male counterparts. For example, the female anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear rate is twice that of men in basketball and four times that of men in soccer. In fact, females between the ages of 15 and 25 carry the highest rate of ACL injuries. Why is this? Researchers have looked at several factors examining this question, including:
- Environmental — shoes increase injury risk because they often provide good traction. Traction allows fast-pivoting, stops, and starts, all of which have been associated with ACL tears. Also, the use of a knee brace has not been shown to reduce the incidence of ACL injury.
- Hormonal — although researchers feel more study in this area is warranted, it does not appear that hormones play a role in the the increased incidence of ACL injury among women.
- Anatomic — Again, although more research is needed, it does not appear that ACL size is related to incidence of injury.
- Biomechanical — women tend to land flat-footed instead of on their toes, and this may lead to increased injury. Furthermore, female athletes tend to use their quadriceps muscles more relative to their hamstrings. Excercising the hamstrings may be beneficial in ACL injury prevention.
Women can help prevent ACL injuries by:
- Practicing good jumping and cutting techniques. Women tend to bend their knees less than men after a jump, which puts added strain on the knee joint. Women also tend to remain more upright in pivoting and cutting than men. This also adds strain to the joint, and by crouching and flexing the knee in performing these maneuvers, women can further reduce their risk.
- Stretching and excercising in the off season so that you will be in good shape for the sports season will reduce your risk of injury. Your balance and flexibility will improve as well.
- Stretching and strengthening excercises for your hamstrings and quadriceps is especially important in reducing your risk of ACL injury. Pay special attention to hamstring stengthening.