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ACL injuries more common with female athletes

By Michael Cobb, M.D.

Basketball and soccer lead to more ACL tears in female athletes than from any other sport.

Anterior cruciate ligament tears can occur when an athlete pivots suddenly, causing excessive rotational and sheering forces on the knee. Treatment usually involves surgery to reconstruct the ligament, followed by rehabilitation.

Basketball and soccer account for two thirds of ACL injuries suffered by female athletes. Studies also show that women basketball players at both the high school and college levels are five times more likely than their male counterparts to suffer this injury. Women soccer players are at three times the risk compared to male players.

Theories to explain why female athletes are at higher risk for ACL injuries include the difference in anatomy (wider pelvis, smaller ACL, tighter ACL “notch”); biological differences, such as a more upright posture during play and which may result in more shear force to the knee. Even the influence of modern shoes and cleats has been researched. The answer, of course, probably involves many factors.

Fortunately, prevention exercise programs are being developed. Focus has been on balance, body control and hamstring strengthening.

Treatment for the athlete with a torn ACL has improved through the years. This includes better surgical techniques and advanced rehabilitation.

As a result, more athletes with this unfortunate injury are returning to their respective sports. And that’s the goal for us here at the West Tennessee Bone & Joint Clinic.