Females Suffer More ACL Injuries: March 27, 2012

For Kassidy Jennings, it was a season ending injury.

“It was a couple seconds before halftime and I went up to guard the girl from making a lay up and I jumped up and when I landed I heard it snap and I knew that wasn’t a good sign.”

Knee injuries are sidelining female athletes at a far greater rate than males. Statistically they are three times more likely to tear their ACL. It has orthopedic specialists wondering why.

“There’s lots of reasons why we think female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injuries. It’s primarily because of the way their muscles have developed in their thighbone. Sometimes it’s a motor control of those muscles. Women’s hips may be a little bit wider which puts a little bit difference stress across the knee,” says Dr. Francesca Swartz, an orthopedic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

The ACL is like a rubber band that stabilizes the knee. Tears, as Kassidy found out, are mostly sports related.

“It’s the twisting turning pivoting sports that puts the ACL at risk,” says Dr. Swartz.

Knowing the vulnerability, researchers figured out ways to help prevent ACL injuries.

“There is a ton of research about jump training. They’re working on the position of their knee and feet when they land especially in basketball and sports like that,” says Dr. Swartz.

The fix for a torn ACL is surgery, to graft new tendon to replace the torn ligament, followed by thorough rehab.

“At three months most people are doing pretty well but we delay for the real high contact sports. Six months probably is the safe zone to return to play,” says Dr. Swartz.

“Because once it happens once and you hear that snap it kind of scares you into always thinking about it,” says Kassidy.

Girls who suffer an ACL injury before they’re 18 stand a 17% chance of re-injury. Playing it safe with their knees is a smart move in the long run.