October 24, 2011

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries In Female Athletes

The number of girls and women participating in all levels of sports has risen greatly in recent years, and the way they play has changed, too. Women’s sports, once dominated by a slow, defensive style, are now played with speed, precision, and power.

But with these changes have come increased injuries, and female athletes have higher injury rates than men in many sports.

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries occur most frequently in planting and cutting sports such as basketball, soccer, and volleyball. National Collegiate Athletic Association injury data show that female athletes injure the ACL more frequently than their male counterparts do.


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The greater incidence of ACL injuries in women probably stems from complex, interrelated factors, possibly including hamstring-quadriceps strength imbalances, joint laxity, and the use of ankle braces. Successful treatment often includes surgery.

Here are some interesting report findings or observations on ACL injuries in women:

  • Injuries were fairly equally divided between the right and left knee (54% and 46% respectively), and all of the injured athletes were right-hand dominant.
  • ACL injuries in female patients highly contributed to more women playing sports, and they play more intensely
  • ACL injuries were significantly more common among women
  • The knee, along with the ankle, consistently ranks as one of the most frequently injured joints
  • ACL injury rate is the imbalance between hamstring and quadriceps muscle strength. Men tend to have more developed thigh musculature than women, and stability of the knee is thought to be more muscle-dominant in men and ligament-dominant in women.
  • For female athletes, the quadriceps, an ACL antagonist, is the dominant muscle group contributing to knee joint stability, while the hamstring dominates in male athletes.
  • Research indicates that women have decreased hamstring-to-quadriceps strength ratios relative to men
  • In some sports, the incidence is two to four times higher in women than in men.
  • Avoiding straight-knee landing, one-step stop landing, and sharp planting and cutting maneuvers may decrease the incidence of injury

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