Why Women are at Greater Risk of ACL Injury

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury is very common among athletes who play sports involving abrupt stops and rapid changes in direction. It happens when there is tearing in the ACL located inside the knee joint. Sports athletes who play basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball, and other similar sports are at most risk of this injury.

Right after an ACL injury, there will be severe pain and swelling in the knee. Most of the time, it becomes too painful to bear your weight. A person suffering from this injury will feel unstable and be unable to walk properly. Often, you’ll hear a loud “pop” sound when this injury occurs.

Depending on the severity of the injury, treatment methods such as surgery for the replacement of the torn ligament and rehabilitation exercises for strength and stability may be recommended by the doctor. It’s very important for people to seek medical attention immediately after an ACL injury.

Higher Risk Group: Women
Apart from learning about ACL symptoms and treatment, another interesting fact about this is that women are more prone to this injury than men. In fact, women athletes are eight times more at risk of ACL injury than men athletes. According to experts, following are the areas that spell this difference:

1) Body Difference
A woman’s body has smaller ACL, narrower femoral notch (area containing the ACL), and wider pelvis. This means that there is a greater degree of the knees curving inwards. This body characteristic makes women more susceptible to ACL injury, particularly when they land on the ground from a jump.

2) Muscular Difference
It’s a common knowledge that men have more muscular strength than women. Women use their quadriceps in the front of the thighs to gain stability. This takes a longer time to develop muscular force. Because of that, more pressure is put onto the ACL, thus increasing risk of injury.

3)Motion Range Difference
Women have greater range of motion in terms of hip rotation and knee hyperextension or how far the knee can be stretched. They also have more knee laxity or looser knees. This results in a backward curving of the knee when the leg is straightened. What happens is that it becomes harder for the back muscles of the thigh to protect the ACL effectively.

4) Hormonal Fluctuations
Moreover, some studies also suggest that fluctuating hormonal levels may play a role, particularly to the laxity of a woman’s ligaments. Studies show that there are changes in the ligament laxity during menstrual period, making women even at greater risk for this injury during the ovulatory stage.

Women athletes are therefore advised to consider the above-mentioned factors during training and exercise. Some preventive training programs include exercises that:
– control knee extension
– control hip and trunk movement
– train hip muscles to stabilize the knee
– increase muscular strength and endurance
– control the outward movement of the knee
– use the hamstrings to stabilize the knee
– improve speed and reaction time of quadriceps

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