ACL injuries can happen to anyone, young or old, recreational or professional athlete. Studies have shown however that young female athletes are four to six times more likely to experience an ACL injury than males.
Why is that you might ask? What are some factors that make it so high in this population?
Females, on average, have wider pelvises than men. The wider pelvis influences the orientation of the bones and pull of the muscles on the knee, increasing the risk of injury.
Females tend to have more laxity or “give” to their ligaments than males. This is due in part to the effects of the more female based hormones like estrogen.
This is a factor that affects both males and females, especially during adolescence when individuals are going through puberty. During this time, adolescents’ bones are growing at a rapid rate. Many times, however, their muscles are no being trained appropriately, or at all, to support these new changes. Weak muscles mean less control and support at the knee joint.
Non-contact ACL injuries occur when athletes are jumping, landing, pivoting, cutting, and performing other dynamic motions. If athletes have poor mechanics with any of these motions, they may be putting their knee joint in compromised positions, thus putting excessive stress on certain structures, like the ACL.
These are just a few factors that may put you at an increased risk. While some of these factors are what we call, “non modifiable” risk factors where there’s not too much we can do to change it, there are many that are “modifiable”, where we can change it. Things like receiving a movement screen to analyze movement mechanics, starting on a strength and conditioning program to improve muscle weaknesses/imbalances, and others, are a great way to reduce your risk.
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