When we think of women’s health, sports injuries are not usually the first concerns that come to mind. However, statistics show that women experience 10 times the rate of knee injuries as men.
Approximately 70 percent of these serious knee ligament injuries occur during noncontact situations, such as landing from a jump or during turning and twisting activities, when a sudden imbalance occurs in the lower extremity.
A great percentage of these injuries are to the anterior cruciate ligament, or more commonly known as the ACL.\
ACL injuries occur four to six times more frequently in female athletes than male athletes.
It is estimated that 1 in every 10 collegiate female athletes and 1 in every 100 high school female athletes sustain a serious knee ligament injury every year.
There are more than 120,000 ACL reconstructions performed in the United States every year.
There are many theories about why women experience knee ligament injuries at a greater rate than men. The majority of research focuses on the following areas where women differ from men, such as:
- Wider pelvis
- Looser joints
- Narrower notch for the ACL
- Changes in collagen metabolism
- Changes with age in looseness of joints
Though little can be done to change many of these factors, studies show that men are more likely than women to use the hamstring muscles instead of quadriceps muscles, during stressful knee activities.
Using the quadriceps seems to decrease the strain on the ACL and protect it from injury.
So with that information, what can be done? Research finds that specific strength, agility and jump training programs may be beneficial in helping to prevent ACL injuries.
Next month, I will talk specifically about the types of training programs that have been found to be the most beneficial. So stay tuned.
Jim Hlavacek MS, PT, DPT, is a physical therapist at The Rehabilitation Institute, 597 S. Enota Drive NE, Gainesville; 770-219-8200, www.nghs.com/rehab. His column appears monthly.