There’s no other way to say it: Getting injured sucks. Even if you make a conscious effort to prevent them, injuries are a natural and unfortunate part of an active lifestyle. This is especially true of knee injuries. Though pro skiers suffer more knee injuries than, say, couch-potatoes, no one is truly immune. That being said, there’s one type that definitely plays favorites when it comes to gender. So, what’s the one common injury affecting more women than men, you ask? An anterior crucial ligament (ACL) tear, of course.
If you’ve ever torn your ACL, you know the sensation. You feel, or hear, a sudden pop in your knee, and an onset of pain and swelling immediately follows. Seeing as a major ligament has just suffered trauma, you’re likely unable to walk away from the injury. According to Mayo Clinic, most ACL injuries are a result of sudden stops, jumping, or changes in direction. Any sport that involves these common motions, such as basketball, soccer, or gymnastics, puts a person at a greater risk of sustaining an ACL tear.
Brutal, right? Well, watch out ladies, because the more active you are, the greater your chances of sustaining an ACL tear. According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, “Female athletes who participate in jumping and pivoting sports are two to 10 times more likely to sustain a knee ligament injury, such as an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, than male athletes participating in the same sports.”
So why exactly are females more prone to this injury than men? While certain factors such as wider hips and the negative effects of estrogen on ligament strength have all been well-accepted explanations, the Orthopedic Specialists of North Carolina have found the reason female athletes put greater stress on their knees is due to biomechanics. In particular, three factors play a role:
- Females’ knees are more turned in toward the midline of the body
- Females’ knees are less bent when jumping and landing
- Females jump and run with the soles of the feet in a more rigid position, directed away from the body’s center of gravity.
While it may seem unfair, sometimes, you just have to work with the hand you’ve been dealt. And while you certainly can’t change the way you’ve been built, minor precautions may help save you a lifetime of pain. For instance, it’s important to work on strengthening and balancing exercises. You also need to allow yourself adequate recovery time between workouts. Or, if you’re an avid skier, invest in gear that’s known to help prevent ACL tears, such as Knee Bindings. If you’re worried about bone density as you age, talk to your doctor about a multivitamin that could help maintain strength. Whatever the case may be, don’t let the stats throw you off your game.