Five Reasons Why Women Are at Greater Risk of ACL Injuries

a woman playing tennisJumps, pivoting motions, and sudden stops put everyone at risk of anterior cruciate ligament damage. However, why is a female athlete more likely to need an ACL surgeon like Doctor Mitchell Larsen than a male in the same sport?

Girls and women are six to eight times more likely to tear their ACL than boys and men. Some reasons for this “gender gap” include:

Anatomical Differences

A woman’s anatomy alters the alignment of the hip, knee, and ankle. Such alignment issues lead to jumping and landing techniques that increase risk on the knees. For instance, a woman is more likely to land more straight-legged or flat-footed than a man.

Greater Flexibility

After adolescence, boys become muscular and girls become flexible. Flexibility without powerful muscles reduces stability and increases a female athlete’s risk for ACL damage.

Ligaments and Quadriceps Dominance

Sportswomen with poor muscle development use their ligaments more. The extra stress on the ligaments increases the chance of a tear. Men often stabilize their knee joints with their hamstrings. Conversely, women use their quadriceps. Reliance on quads compresses the knee joint and stresses the ACL.

Hormonal Differences

Higher estrogen levels, more body fat, and less muscle mass seem to increase the risk of ACL tear. Reports also show that women are more likely to tear their ligaments during the menstrual cycle. Researchers still don’t know how hormones affect the risk of ACL damage.

Psychological Factors

Women may be more team-oriented than men. Females may also have a higher pain threshold than males. Thus, women are more likely than men to play through an injury. However, that endangers women and puts them at higher risk of more significant damage.

What’s known is that women tear their ligaments at a much higher rate than men. What’s not clear is the real cause of this apparent gender gap. Understanding the possible reasons for that scenario can help lower the risk of ACL injuries.