Here’s Why ACL Injuries Are More Common in Female Athletes Than Male Athletes

You’ve been working hard to stay in shape and conditioned for your sport, and you feel ready for anything. But next to nothing can end your season — or even your sports career — faster than injuring your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). 

At Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, Ltd., our team of orthopedic experts understands that when you injure this knee ligament, you can be sidelined for the season and possibly longer. And while both males and females get the same types of ACL injuries, they occur much more frequently in females. 

Our sports medicine team has put together this helpful article to highlight the key reasons female athletes are at greater risk of ACL injuries and what you can do about them.

What is an ACL injury?

Inside the joint where your thigh bone connects to your lower leg, you have two major ligaments that help control movement: the posterior (behind) and anterior (front) cruciate ligaments. The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is what keeps your shin bone (tibia) from moving too far forward. 

When you injure your ACL, you have typically either overstretched or torn it. ACL injuries can happen as the result of a fall or because of trauma or auto accidents, but they happen most frequently as a sports injury due to:

ACL injuries are typically accompanied by a telltale “popping” sound as well as extreme pain and swelling. If you think you’ve injured your ACL, it’s important to see an expert, like one of the doctors at Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, Ltd., to accurately diagnose and treat your injury. 

Why are ACL injuries more common in females?

Different studies demonstrate that female athletes experience 2-10 times the number of ACL injuries than their male counterparts. And with more female athletes playing than ever before, the number is expected to increase. 

Here’s a look at why females are more prone to ACL injuries:

Anatomical differences

It’s obvious that men and women differ physiologically. Three main differences are believed to be at the root of the increased risk for getting an ACL injury for females:

  1. Females have smaller bones and ligaments, making them easier to injure. 
  2. The female pelvic alignment places more stress on the knees.
  3. Females generally have looser ligaments than men, making them more prone to injury.

In addition, many females have an imbalance in the strength between their quadriceps (quads) and hamstring. More developed quads lead to an overreliance on that muscle group when stopping motion, adding pressure to the knee and ACL. 

Differences in landing

As compared with males, female athletes tend to land after jumping in ways that put added pressure on the knees. By inadvertently bending the knee inward when landing, you’re more likely to experience knee buckling and ACL strain. 

Differences in running

Female athletes are more likely to hold themselves upright when they run. This reduces control over knee rotation and adds stress to the ACL, increasing the risk of injury. 

What can I do to avoid ACL injury?

Even though female athletes are at greater risk of getting an ACL injury, it doesn’t mean the injury is unavoidable. The team at Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, Ltd. can identify issues with your biomechanics that may increase your risk of hurting your ACL.

We offer comprehensive occupational and physical therapy services that can help you learn safe and more stable ways to move, decreasing your risk of injury. Other important steps you can take to avoid an ACL injury include:

If you have an ACL injury or have questions about what you can do to prevent one, contact the Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, Ltd. offices in Wyomissing, Reading, or Hamburg, Pennsylvania, or request an appointment online now. You can also send a message to the team here on our website.

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