ACL injuries

Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries pose a significant challenge, especially for female athletes. Research shows that women are two to eight times more likely than men to experience these injuries.

Following the recent news that another young female footballer playing for the Hearts team in Scotland sustained a serious ACL rupture, we look at why women are more likely to develop these injuries.

Why are women more likely to develop ACL injuries?

Several factors could explain why ACL injuries are more common in women than in men. For example, anatomical differences may play a major role. Women typically have a wider pelvis, which affects the alignment of the thigh bone, tibia, and knee joint, increasing stress on the knee’s ligaments and soft tissues. This misalignment makes the knee more prone to both overuse and sudden injuries.

Women also tend to have less muscle mass around their knees compared to men, which can lead to joint instability. This reduced muscle density makes the ligaments, like the ACL, more likely to overstretch and tear during physical activities. Hormonal differences also matter; oestrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle, which may cause tendons and ligaments to become more flexible and prone to injury.

Lastly, external factors such as sports equipment designed mainly for men alongside lower-quality facilities and insufficient support from physios and sports therapists, may further contribute to women’s higher ACL injury rates.

Half of ACL injuries could be prevented

Experts believe that up to half of ACL injuries could be prevented with the right precautions. A well-structured warm-up routine that focuses on flexibility, strength, and stability around the knee is crucial.

Mr Shah Punwar recently attended the ‘Sports Knee Injury’ event which focused on the prevalence of ACL injuries in female athletes. During the talk, England Lionesses captain, Leah Williamson, also discussed the importance of a good warm up routine.

Dynamic stretches, plyometric exercises, and strength training help stabilise the knee by targeting the surrounding muscles. This type of warm-up not only prepares the body for the demands of sports, but also ensures proper alignment of muscles and joints, significantly lowering the risk of injury.

Preventing and treating ACL injuries

While it isn’t always possible to prevent ACL injuries, there are things you can do to reduce the risk. Proper training, wearing appropriate sports gear, and understanding your body’s limits can all help to prevent these injuries.

Building up the muscles around the knee is crucial for both preventing injuries and reducing their impact. Female athletes should use sports equipment designed for their specific body mechanics and play on high-quality surfaces to minimise the risk of injury.

When prevention falls short, treatment often involves a combination of surgery and physical therapy, depending on the severity of the ACL injury and individual needs. Surgical treatment may involve reconstructing or repairing the ligament, while physical therapy helps restore strength, flexibility, and stability.

If you’re concerned about an ACL injury, book a consultation with Mr Shah Punwar.

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