Females are up to 7x more likely to tear their ACL playing sports than males.
Soccer and basketball are the leading sports in ACL tears.
These statistics should really make you raise your eyebrows. Studies about ACL tears showed that over 50% of female soccer players tore their ACL through their career. Why is it so prevalent? Is there something you can do to help keep your daughter’s knee healthy?
The truth of the matter is- we are very different than men, in many ways! But there are some factors that predispose females to knee injuries.
Anatomical Make-up: Female have wider hips that makes it more common for girls to be “knock-kneed”. This can lead to collapsed arches or knees caving in with jumping and cutting- a serious threat to the integrity of the ACL. Females are generally smaller than males, meaning the ACL itself will be smaller and thus more prone to injury.
More Flexible: Females tend to have hyper-mobile joints. This is sometimes called “double jointed” but can be more than that. If very flexible, each joint will allow extra movement that leads to decreased stability and usually less strength.
Less Motor Control: This goes right along with flexibility and strength, but decrease motor control means females are less likely to know how to move their body in space. There is not as much awareness about the movement at the joint, thus are more likely/able to move in extreme ranges of motion.
Hormones: After onset of menstruation, it is likely that your daughter’s performance will ebb and flow with her cycle. It is possible that in the lower performance window of her cycle, she will be more likely to sustain an injury. As preteens and teenagers grow and develop, they require adequate recovery, rest, nutrition for health. Unfortunately, this overlaps with a time when many athletes are playing their sport at every season with little rest and no time to recover.
Lack of Warm-Up: Many student-athletes are sitting 7 hours during the day then jumping on the field with little to no warm up. Group warm-ups tends to be very general and not including stability, strength and power development that they need! Coaches are often focused on skill development at this stage rather than fundamental strength and conditioning.
What can you do to decrease your daughter’s risk of an ACL tear?
If your daughter is playing sports, she is already 7x more likely than her male classmate to experience this injury. Many of the differences that contribute to ACL injuries are simply anatomical and physiological differences that we can’t alter. However, there are some variables we can control, or at least mitigate: strength and conditioning training, proper warm ups and instruction, adequate rest and nutrition for optimal performance.
If your daughter’s coach(es) are not equipped or educated to focus on strength and conditioning, get her set up with a coach that understands her needs. Especially through the younger years, encourage her to play multiple sports with different seasons and demands on her body. As much as she focuses on training and practice, instill the importance of nutrition and rest!
At Athletes’ Potential, we work with many student athletes, females and males alike! We understand the unique gender differences and biomechanical demands for performance enhancement. If you want your kid to be faster, stronger, better and less likely to sustain a season-ending injury, then give us a call!
Thanks for reading,
Dr. Jackie, PT, DPT
Dr. Danny and staff's views on performance improvement, injury prevention, and sometimes other random thoughts.