Women and ACL Tears

First comes the pop, then comes the pain. For those who play sports, the sound and sight of a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a too-common experience. And, as it turns out, much more common in women than men, with an occurrence rate eight times as high.

That’s because women have wider hips and tend to land in a knock-kneed position when they jump or cut, says Katherine Coyner, M.D., Assistant Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery. “Women also have stronger quadriceps in relation to their hamstrings than men. This leads to an imbalance that makes landing properly with a bent knee more difficult.”

Specializing in a single sport can emphasize one set of muscles over another and increases the risk of injury to the ACL, which connects the upper and lower leg bones and helps stabilize the knee.

“People become one-muscle dominant at the expense of other muscles, and that can apply too much force on the knee,” Dr. Coyner says.

To help create a well-rounded athlete and reduce the likelihood of ACL injury, Dr. Coyner and other experts recommend training programs that work muscles throughout the body.

Try this: 11+, a 20-minute warm-up program developed by FIFA, soccer’s international governing body. It’s designed for use before practices and games and strengthens core and leg muscles through running, jumping, and balance exercises.