House Calls: Females have a bigger risk of ACL injury

Triplicate Staff

House Calls runs every other Saturday. Today's column is written by Sharryn Jones, a physical therapist at Sutter Coast Hospital.

As basketball season continues, it's worth noting there are some important differences between the sexes that should be considered during athletic training.

Studies show that females have a higher tendency towards ACL injures for several reasons. First of all, females tend to have a narrower groove in the knee where the ACL passes through. This can equal more force on the ACL, increasing the risk of injury.

The shape of the groove can also contribute to ACL injury. The

smaller A-shaped notch present in some women can contribute to

non-contact ACL injuries.

Also, females tend to have wider hips, which can lead to "knock knee"

alignment. This alignment puts a lateral force on the knee, thus

increasing the stress on the ACL.

In addition, females tend to display decreased active muscle

stiffness as compared with males. Studies have found that females tend

to use the quadriceps muscle to stabilize the knee and less hamstring

force, whereas males engage the hamstring more. Studies have also found

that females demonstrate less hip and knee flexion with cutting/jumping

maneuvers than males.

This is why it is important for female athletes especially to engage

in preventative program to decrease the risk of ACL injuries. While

these programs cannot affect the structural alignments, they can improve

upon the muscular stability and neuromuscular retraining.

Some key components of the programs include core stability, jump or

plyometric training, balance training and sport specific training.

Core strength has been shown to have a direct influence on lower

extremity mechanics and performance. It is especially important with the

female athlete who may present with a weak core, contributing to the

already altered mechanics of the lower extremity.

Jump or plyometric training involves teaching proper landing

technique to decrease the peak ground reaction forces and reduce the

lateral force on the knee. Balance exercises address proprioception and

neuromuscular response. Finally, specificity of the sport is essential

to ensure that there is carry over from the practice to the court or

field.

While there are several reasons why females have a tendency toward

ACL injuries, incorporating a good preventative program can help reduce

the chance of injury. If the female athlete has already experienced an

injury, it is important the she follow through with the rehabilitation

to avoid further injury or a new injury.

Physical therapists are knowledgeable in preventative programs for

sports and can help you put one together a program that works for you.

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Email suggestions for future House Calls columns to Beth Liles at Sutter Coast Hospital, lilesbe@sutterhealth.org

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