Why Women are More Prone to ACL Tears than Men

Participation in women’s sports is higher than ever. Since Title IX passed in 1972, ensuring equal participation opportunities in school sports, participation has gone up 900%. Of course, along with more sports, more teams, and more players come more injuries — especially anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. It seems ACL injuries don’t care about antidiscrimination laws, because they clearly affect women more than men.

If you have an ACL tear, our expert team of doctors at the San Diego Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Inc. are highly trained to repair your torn ligament through a variety of methods from nonsurgical to ACL reconstruction. We can help stabilize your knee, alleviate your pain, increase your range of motion, and, if possible, get you back in the game.

If you’re a female athlete or know one, our doctors would like to relay some important information about why women are more prone to ACL tears than men.

A quick anatomy lesson

Your knee joint is the place where your femur (thigh bone) connects to your tibia (shin bone). Inside that joint, along with your knee cap, you have two major ligaments: the posterior (back) and anterior (front) cruciate ligaments. Your ACL is the one that keeps your tibia from sliding forward in front of your femur — except when you tear it. 

Understanding ACL tears

While ACL injuries can be the result of a fall or an auto accident, they most commonly occur in the sports arena. That’s because athletes are often called upon to change directions suddenly, one of the main culprits in ACL injuries. Here are the top five most dangerous moves:

  1. Slowing down after running fast
  2. Quick change of direction
  3. Sudden stops
  4. Direct impact with another athlete
  5. Jumping and landing wrong

If you’ve ever torn your ACL, you know that it comes with a signature popping sound, and, of course, pain and swelling.

Not all ACL injuries are tears. It’s possible to sprain the ligament as well, which is much easier to treat.

Why are women more prone to ACL tears?

Women are built differently than men. Three main differences come into play with ACL injuries:

  1. Smaller bones and ligaments in women are more susceptible to injury
  2. Different pelvic alignment places more stress on women’s knees
  3. Women tend to have looser ligaments than men

In addition to these physical differences, there tend to be differences in the way men and women train for their sports and execute the skills that may lead to a higher risk for female ACL tears.

Quadricep-to-hamstring imbalance

When your quad is more developed than your hamstring (as is common in many female athletes), you tend to use the quad to stop motion, thus adding pressure to your knee and ACL.

Flat-footed landings

The best way to land after a jump is on the balls of your feet. This engages your calf muscles. Most women, however, tend to land flat-footed, which puts pressure on the knees.

Running posture

Women tend to run in a more upright position than men, giving them less control over the knee’s rotation and adding stress to the ACL. 

How female athletes can reduce their risk of ACL tears

While women can’t do much to change genetics and biology, they can change the way they train for their sport to better prepare their bodies for the types of movements that lead to ACL injuries.

If you have an ACL injury or have questions about how to prevent one, call, click, or text us at the San Diego Sports Medicine and Orthopaedic Center, Inc. for an appointment.

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