House Calls: Females have a bigger risk of ACL injury

By Sharryn Jones January 31, 2012 09:20 pm

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

Sharryn Jones
Sharryn Jones
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, This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it