ACL Injuries in Women: Why They Happen And How to Prevent Them

ACL Injuries in Women: Why They Happen And How to Prevent Them

Apr 30, 2015

At KOC, our sports medicine team treats knee injuries in male and female athletes of all ages and skill levels, including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. And while ACL injuries are common among all athletes, they are becoming more increasingly common in female athletes.

“Women's sports, once dominated by a slow, defensive style, are now played with speed, precision, and power,” says Russell Betcher, M.D., a board-certified orthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist.

“With these changes have come increased injuries, and female athletes have higher injury rates than men in many sports, particularly soccer, basketball, and volleyball.”

Because soccer, basketball and volleyball involve a lot of pressure to the knees, cutting and jumping, the ACL is put to the test and more prone to injury.  

The ACL is a powerful ligament extending from the top-front surface of the leg bone (tibia) to the bottom-rear surface of the thigh bone (femur). The ligament prevents the knee joint from instability. 

“Coming to a quick stop, combined with a direction change while running, pivoting, landing from a jump, or overextending the knee can cause injury to the ACL,” says Russell Betcher, M.D.

The majority of ACL injuries suffered during athletic participation are of the non-contact variety. Three main non-contact mechanisms have been identified as causes:

  • Planting and cutting
  • Straight-knee landing
  • One-step stop landing

Pivoting and sudden deceleration are also common mechanisms of non-contact ACL injury.

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How to Reduce ACL Injury Risk

Our sports medicine team, along with the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, recommends that athletes engage in ACL prevention programs or regimens to avoid injury. There are three important components to ACL injury prevention.

1.    “Training and conditioning should be a year-round program for any athlete,” says Russell Betcher, M.D.

Skill drills and strength and flexibility exercises will enhance balance and coordination so you will be ready when the season starts.

2.    “Make strengthening exercises for the hamstrings and quadriceps muscles a regular part of your conditioning program,” says Russell Betcher, M.D.

To stretch the quads, stand and use a wall or table for support. Lift one leg and pull your foot towards your buttocks. Hold for five seconds, then release the foot and stand straight. Repeat six to ten times on one side, then turn and repeat on the other side. To stretch the hamstrings, sit with one knee bent and the other leg extended, toes pointing to the ceiling. Lean forward until you feel a stretch. Hold for five seconds then return to your original position. Repeat six to ten times on each leg.

3.    Practice proper landing technique (from a jump) and practice cutting maneuvers in a crouched posture, with a slight bend at the knee and the hip.

“Being aware of the mechanics of the body during athletic activities is a key part of avoiding injury,” says Russell Betcher, M.D., “Changing how you place pressure on the knee during play is an important step in protecting the ACL.”

Our sports medicine team, athletic trainers and physical therapists are dedicated to the safety and health of athletes, providing tools to prevent injury and offering treatment when injuries happen. Our board-certified physicians offer surgical and nonsurgical treatment for ACL injuries. If you are suffering from an ACL injury, do not hesitate to contact us at 865-558-4400.   

Fast Stats About ACL Injuries in Athletes:

  • Female basketball players damage their knees four times more often than men.
  • Female soccer players are 2 1/2 more times likely to suffer knee injuries than men.
  • Men take three short steps when they stop or change direction.  Women have done it all in one stride, thereby placing more pressure on the knees.
  • Men tend to bend their knees more when landing from a jump or making a sudden change in speed or direction, whereas women’s knees remain stiffer.

ACL Resources:

American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) – ACL Injuries

American Orthopaedic Society For Sports Medicine – ACL Injury Prevention

AAOS – Knee Conditioning Program



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