Why Female Athletes Have a Higher Risk for Knee Injuries and What Can Be Done About It

Female athletes are at a far greater risk of anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears than male athletes. This is a significant injury that can put a halt to your season and send you to the operating room. There are several reasons why women are more likely than men to experience this devastating injury.

At Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, we treat both female and male athletes with knee injuries, but we’d prefer to help you avoid an injury in the first place. Here’s why there’s a disparity in injuries and how you, as a woman, can avoid losing time on the field, court, or track.

Some knee injury facts

Yes, knee injuries do occur more often in men’s sports, but female athletes are more vulnerable. Knee injuries can be devastating, requiring surgery and months of rehabilitation. 

Injuries to the ACL make up more than 50% of all knee injuries in both men and women. The ACL is a major ligament in your knee, and injury occurs when you stop suddenly, change direction abruptly, or land wrong from a jump. You may hear a pop, have swelling and pain, and notice immediate weakness in the joint.

Athlete movement matters

ACL injuries definitely happen in contact supports, such as during a football tackle, but for women the majority of injuries occur due to awkward landings, pivots, or cuts during play. This indicates that injury is more likely due to athlete movement rather than the particular circumstances of the sport.

Women may actually perform actions that pose a greater risk to their knee joints as compared to men when playing the same sport. Females are far more likely to activate their quadriceps first, while men tend to use their hamstrings first. This difference in muscle action affects how the knee ligaments are strained.

Women are also more likely to land from a jump with their knees closer together. But research shows that landing with the knees wide apart decreases the likelihood of ACL injury. Proper coaching and training can help women reframe their movement patterns so they’re less at risk of injury. These training techniques have the added benefit of improving a female athlete’s performance by increasing vertical jump, acceleration, and directional change prowess.

Shoes and turf

Playing surface can play a role in ACL injuries. Women are more likely to experience injury on artificial turf versus grass. We can also help female athletes choose the right shoes for their sport and gait. The way the shoe interacts with the playing surface is an important consideration.

At Orthopaedic Associates of Reading, we want to help all athletes avoid career-altering knee injuries. While it’s impossible to prevent all ACL tears and other knee injuries, the proper education, training, rest and recovery, footwear, and other equipment goes a long way. 

When you come in to see us, we can evaluate your movement patterns to learn if there are ways to reduce your risk of knee injury. Or if you or a loved one should experience a pop, swelling, or acute pain in the knee, consult our expert team of providers for treatment. Call one of our offices in Reading, Hamburg, or Wyomissing, Pennsylvania, or schedule an appointment using the online booking tool

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