Biology 100 – Section 005
November 4, 2013
ACL Tears in Female Athletes
ACL TEARS IN FEMALE ATHLETES
The Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) found in the knee connects the femur (thigh bone) to the tibia (shin) and provides stability to the knee. The ACL prevents the tibia from shifting too far forward and from rotating too far inward under the femur. The recent increase of this injury has parents, athletes, doctors, and coaches in fear. Athletes and parents fear the injury to due the expensive surgery, and the difficult physical emotional and mental recovery. The classic tearing of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament has no contact involved and occurs when an athlete is stopping suddenly, cutting, twisting, and jumping. The athlete will normally here and feel a pop as their knee gives out and they fall to the ground. On occasion the athlete may try to continue playing on the injury but normally the knee will buckle and they will begin to feel pain. ACL injuries annually rise to 200,000 cases with 100,000 of these knees are reconstructed. The problem is that the injury is 2 to 8 times more common in women. Why? Why do women have this injury occur so much more than men? Women have many structural and hormonal differences than men thus, resulting in a higher number of ACL injuries. Women also move differently than men and this isn’t to their benefit. Structural, mechanical, and hormonal differences are the three main causes to women tearing this ligament more than men. To know these differences and possible prevention of the injury one must take a deeper look into the science of the matter.
Men and women are differently anatomically and this is problematic for female athletes giving them a higher risk of injury. According to Griffin (1) Females have a higher risk of being injured. NCAA statistics found that female athletes are 2-8 times more likely to sustain an ACL injury playing sports. Several factors are speculated to increase risk of ACL injury in females including lower extremity alignment (wider pelvis, knee valgus, foot pronation), joint laxity, hamstring flexibility, muscle development. According to Quinn (2) The most obvious anatomic difference between men and women that may lead to ACL injuries is a wider pelvis in women then men. This difference results in a wider "Q-angle," or quadriceps angle. This is the angle at which the femur meets the tibia. It is thought that this increased angle places more stress on a woman's knee joint, which makes it less stable than a man's knee joint. This lack of stability causes the ACL to tear and the knee to buckle when female athletes land, cut, or twist with too much power or speed. Other than wider hips another anatomical difference between men and women is that women have weaker quadriceps. Women have less developed thigh muscles, making the knee more dependent on the ligaments for stability resulting in more knee injuries especially ACL’s. In addition, Hirst et al (3) Women do not have as much muscle as men in their quardriceps and hamstring even after their muscle strength has been normalized for body weight. Because knee stability depends on the strength of the surrounding muscles (primarily hamstrings and quadriceps) women are more prone to ACL injuries. There are many anatomical differences between men and women that put at a higher risk then men for tearing knee ligaments but the ACL in particular. The anatomical differences are not the only reason for this injury to women. The way they move and the mechanics of their athletic maneuvers are another reason why the knee gives out and the ACL tears.
When women and men compete in sports, at a high level of competition, they have almost equal twisting and loading forces placed on their knees. However, as discussed before women have less muscle strength. Other than muscular or other anatomical differences, Women also have different mechanically than men. Women tend to make athletic maneuvers with more of a...
References: 1. Griffin LY. Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries: Risk Factors and Prevention Strategies. Journal of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons. 2000;8:141-150.
1 4. Hewett, Timothy E., PhD, Myer, Gregory D, MS, CSCS, and Ford, Kevin R., MS, Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Female Athletes, Part 1, Mechanisms and Risk Factors, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, Vol. 34, No. 2, 299-311, 2006.
female athletes, The American Journal of Sports Medicine, 26, 614-618. 1998.
Griffin, L. Y., (2005, July 1). Retrieved January 17, 2006, from
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