Female Athletes at Highest Risk for First-time Non-contact ACL Tear

According to recently published data, female athletes are most at risk to sustain first-time non-contact ACL injuries.

Overall injury incidence rate was 0.112 in female athletes and 0.063 for males. When adjusted for sport and level of play, females were more than two times more likely than males to have a first-time non-contact ACL injury. (Source: Healio)

Why are females more susceptible for ACL injuries? Many scientific studies have been conducted, and a few theories have been offered.

Women tend to have weaker hamstrings compared to their quadriceps muscles. This may affect knee stability and the stress on the ACL.

Another explanation could be the differences in anatomy and hormones. Some studies have indicated that a female’s body mechanics move differently than a male’s.  For example, a woman jumps and lands with the hip and knee less flexed than a man.

One final theory, men tend to land and cut in a lower position bending the knees.  Women tend to land and plant their feet in a more upright position with less of a bend along with some inward rotation in the knee. This position places a lot of stress on the ACL and raises the risk of tearing it.

Although there is still discussion surrounding the exact reasons why this may occur, the increased risk for female athletes is significant and real.

In general, all athletes, male or female should:

  • Warm up properly before playing sports or working out – paying special attention to the hamstrings, quadriceps, calves and hip flexors.
  • Strengthen leg and core muscles using correct techniques.
  • Add speed and flexibility training to your workout regimen.
  • Learn proper landing, pivoting and jumping techniques.
  • Take the time to rest to recover and avoid overuse injuries.