Female athletes involved in high-risk sports, such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball, suffer injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, at a rate four to six times greater than male athletes. As more and more women join high school and college sports teams, the number of ACL injuries continues to rise.
But why are female athletes more likely to sustain an ACL injury than male athletes? There are two main reasons, according to Stephen J. Nicholas, MD, Westchester resident and founder and current director of NY Orthopedics. First, “with women, there is a wider pelvis and, because of that, the angle that the knee makes with the hip is acute. This causes the force on the ligament to be greater and leads to a more likely giving-way of the knee. The likelihood of tearing is greater.”
Second, “women tend to land with straighter knees than men, which puts more stress on the ligament.” What many people may not know is that most ACL tears women sustain happen in non-contact situations. This is largely due to women’s landings and takeoffs that put extra pressure on the ligament. Luckily, both male and female athletes can participate in knee-injury prevention programs that teach specific techniques for safer play. “It is important to understand how the injury occurs and the mechanisms behind it,” Nicholas explains. For more information about knee-injury prevention programs, visit http://kipp.instituteforsportsmedicine.org/.