Although the differences between boys and girls, men and women are pretty obvious, we are often blind to differences that aren’t quite so noticeable. Like the differences in risk of injury for female athletes.
Over the past 40 years, since Title IX gave women more opportunity to participate in elementary, high school and college athletics, it’s become apparent that women athletes face different and unique risks when it comes to injury.
In fact, female athletes are up to eight times more likely to suffer a noncontact ACL injury than males. Now if you follow sports at all, you already know that an ACL injury can be devastating, often requiring major reconstructive surgery. An ACL injury can sideline an athlete for months or longer.
Why females are more susceptible, and what can be done to help protect them, is something all parents should know.
Understanding ACL injuries in females
The anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, is one of four ligaments that connect the large bone of the upper leg (femur), to the bones of the lower leg (tibia and fibula). The ACL is located at the front of the knee; the posterior cruciate ligament, PCL, at the back, and the lateral and medial collateral ligaments (LCL and MCL) on the inner and outer sides of
Noncontact ACL injuries most often occur during sports that involve sudden stops and changes in direction: basketball, soccer, tennis, volleyball.
Over the years, a number of theories have been suggested to explain why female athletes are at greater risk for ACL injury. Although the research is inconclusive as to which of these factors is the most causative, is seems likely that all play a role:
• Females tend to have wider hips. As a result, the knees tend to rotate inward, toward the center of the body. This puts the ACL in a constant state of stretch, predisposing it to injury.
• Further, the female knee is smaller, providing less space for the ACL and PCL to move. Additionally, female’s ACLs are smaller, relative to body size, than in males, which may make it more easily injured.
• Women tend to have “hyperlaxity” of the joints. Simply put, women’s joints tend to be looser than men’s, which increases the risk of an ACL injury.
• Although there are exceptions, researchers have noted that men and boys tend to have more muscle mass in the quadriceps, buttocks and hamstrings. This muscle mass acts as a shock absorber during those sudden stops, quick cuts and jumps. Women, with their smaller musculature, don’t have this protection.
• Researchers have also found that female athletes tend to hold their bodies more rigidly than males, and tend to land flat-footed and straight-legged, which transmits more force to the knee joint.
Preventing ACL injuries in female athletes
While there’s very little that can be done to change one’s anatomy, the scientifically proven Sportsmetrics™ program can decrease the risk of serious knee ligament injuries in female athletes. A new class of Sportsmetrics™ training begins this month at Spaulding Physical Therapy in Mount Sterling
Developed by Dr. Frank Noyes and a team of athletic trainers, physical therapists and researchers, Sportsmetrics™ is more than a plyometric training program. During the six-week program, female athletes of all ages learn how to move their bodies through a series of neuromuscular retraining exercises.
The selection and progression of the exercises proceed from simple jumping drills to multi-
directional, single-foot hops and plyometrics with an emphasis on the quick cut and
The Sportsmetrics™ ACL injury prevention program is built on strength, coordination and overall physical conditioning – the foundation for athletic achievement. Training with Sportsmetrics™ reduces the female athlete’s risk of injury and enhances her competitive athletic performance.
For more information about the Sportsmetrics™ program at Spaulding Physical Therapy, please call (859) 497-2924.
Spaulding Physical Therapy is an independent, locally owned private practice offering physical therapy services in Mount Sterling, Ky., and the surrounding communities. The practice is located at 3041 Owingsville Road. For more information, please call (859) 497-2924. Physician referral is not needed.
Spaulding Physical Therapy
3041 Owingsville Rd
Mount Sterling, Kentucky 40353