Smoother landings, less ACL injuries
Women are eight times more likely than men to tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), according to the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine (AOSSM).
The ACL is a ligament located in the middle of the knee and prevents the shin bone from sliding out in front of the thigh bone. ACL injuries occur when the ligament is overstretched or when the bones of the leg twist in opposite directions. Sports such as volleyball, basketball, lacrosse, skiing and soccer are considered high risk for ACL injuries because they involve jumping and pivoting, according to the AOSSM.
Studies have shown that female athletes experience a greater frequency of ACL injuries than male athletes in certain sports such as basketball and soccer. Theories about this disproportion include the gender differences in bone alignment and the effects of estrogen in women.
Researchers asked physically active men and women to perform a number of jumping exercises. By using motion analysis software, they observed the landing patterns.
Both men and women landed stiffly, which can lead to ACL injuries, researchers said. Surprisingly, women were 3.6 times more likely to land in “knock-kneed” position. This means that the knees are together while feet are still apart. Researchers noted that landing in this position puts additional stress on the knee and can explain why women are at higher risk for ACL injuries.
Norcross speculated that because their hips are wider, women may land in the knock-kneed position more often than men. He says wider hips can make women more likely to put their knees together after jumping.
The recovery time for an ACL injury is usually long. Additionally, it can lead to early onset arthritis, which can make it difficult to stay active, experts say.
“From professional to recreational athletes, ACL injuries can be devastating, so it is best to prevent them when possible,” Dr. Neault says. “Warming up and stretching is important to prepare your body for activity. When participating in sports which involve jumping and turning, it is imperative to maximize the strength of the muscle supporting the knee.”
“Based on this new study, learning how to land better can also help. Try to keep your knees lined up to your feet so that there is less stress put on the ligaments in the knees,” he adds.
About the Author
health enews staff is a group of experienced writers from our Advocate Aurora Health sites, which also includes freelance or intern writers.