Unfortunately, women have higher rates of injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in the knee. As early as the 1990’s, higher rates of injuries to the ACL in women versus men have been observed (6:1 in basketball and 2:1 in soccer). Researchers have speculated that the greater risk to women is due to various factors, since many reasons can lead to tearing the ligament when an athlete lands with an awkward twisting motion.
Careful work on co-ordination, balance and hamstring strength can help reduce one’s risk of an ACL tear especially for female athletes. Many professional, college and competitive high school athletes are participating in programs to prevent a season ending knee injury. Activities designed to restore both functional stability about the joint and enhance motor control skills can help prevent injury. Use of balance equipment such as wobble board and jumping exercises on one leg can improve dynamic stability.
In one study, female soccer players, ages 14 to 18, who underwent a neuromuscular training program (Preventative Injury and Enhancement Program (PEP) program) consisting of basic warm-up activities, stretching techniques for the trunk and lower extremity, strengthening exercises, plyometric activities and soccer-specific agility drills had 88% less ACL injuries in the first year and 74% less injuries in the second year. Referring the patient to a health professional familiar with similar proprioception programs may be the best measure to teach the athlete proactively reduce the chance of an ACL tear.
Anthony Luke MD, MPH Director, UCSF Primary Care Sports Medicine 1701 Divisadero St. #240 San Francisco, CA, 94115 415-353-7566
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