Welcome to Stay in the Game, a monthly blog where the team from The Queen's Health Systems share the latest tips on the treatment and prevention of sports injuries. We want to help you play hard and be well - a winning combination that will keep you in the game all season long.

ACL knee injuries in female athletes

One of the most common injuries affecting female student athletes are knee injuries, specifically, injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.

What is an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)?

The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the key ligaments that help stabilize your knee joint and connects your thighbone (femur) to your shinbone (tibia). The function of the ACL is to prevent the lower leg (tibia) from moving forward on the upper leg (femur). The ACL also allows for internal rotation of the lower leg.

In an article published by the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2014, females typically suffer from first time ACL injuries two times more often than their male counterparts, depending on level of competition (high school versus college-level) and type of sport (American Journal of Sports Medicine).

A 2013 study in the Journal of Athletic Training also found that the highest rate of ACL injuries per 100,000 athletic exposures occurs in girls soccer, followed by football, boys soccer, girls basketball, boys basketball and volleyball.

Why do females injure their ACL more often than males?

ACL injuries occur more frequently in females than in males because of differences in strength, anatomy, genetics, and jumping and landing patterns. Most female ACL injuries happen as a result of non-contact sport injuries involving "cutting," a sudden deceleration and changing of direction, pivoting with the foot firmly planted, or landing on one leg. Females tend to land with their hips and knees in an extended position and with their knees in an inward (valgus) position, which can contribute to an ACL injury.

Photo credit: https://openi.nlm.nih.gov

How to reduce the incidence of an ACL injury

Work with an athletic trainer to develop an ACL prevention program, which should include the following components:

• A running program with emphasis on deceleration and cutting techniques
• Strength training specially for hamstrings and gluteal muscles
• Plyometric training with emphasis on landing techniques
• Balance training

Queen's Center for Sports Medicine provides comprehensive care for the treatment and prevention of sports and knee injuries, including the ACL, for patients of all ages. Call 808-691-4449 to schedule an appointment, or click the button below.

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