Battle of the Sexes: Female Athletes and ACL Injuries - Pursuit Physical Therapy
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Teenage soccer player kicking ballACL injuries are becoming more and more common in all sports but do you know that teenage female athletes pose a 10 times greater risk of suffering from an ACL injury compared to males in similar sports? Not only is this injury a costly financial burden, it also takes the athlete away from his/her sport for six to nine months for rehabilitation.  Most athletes, excluding Adrian Peterson, won’t return to 100% until after 1 year after surgery, but a full recovery is expected with proper rehabilitation.      
What causes an ACL injury? The ACL ligament is one of the major ligaments in the knee that provides stability.  Most commonly, an ACL is torn during noncontact movements such as landing awkwardly from a jump, changing direction, or stopping suddenly.  The athlete may hear a “pop” noise and usually they fall down and instantly grab their knee.

Knee Injury and Soccer

What are some risk factors in females for an ACL injury?
  • Muscular imbalances
  • Genetic/ Hormones
  • Wider pelvis
  • Poor core stability
  • Poor biomechanics when landing
Typically females are more dominant in their quadriceps than hamstrings. Because of this imbalance, a quadriceps contraction without an equal hamstring contraction can cause the tibia (lower leg) to be pulled forward resulting in a tear. Due to the widening of the hips, girls experience a more pronounced “Q” angle—the angle at which the femur meets this tibia. This increased angle may put more stress on the knee joint and influence a compensated dynamic knee valgus upon landing (seen below).

 genu valgus condition

This genu valgus can also be prevented with proper hip strengthening.  The stronger you can get your hips the less this “knock knee” position occurs and allows you to land or plant and cut without this occurring. Can I prevent an ACL injury from occurring? Notice how 3/5 of the risk factors are able to be changed!  We can’t change your genetics, hormones, or your pelvis, but we can address the other risk factors to help decrease the risk of experiencing an ACL injury.  Look at this example:  we all know who RG III is right.  This is a picture of him during the NFL combine before his rookie season:

Robert Griffin posture diagram

Notice the genu valgus in his knees when performing a vertical jump!!! Yes, even professional athletes will have this!   His rookie season and even second season may have had a totally different outcome if this was addressed prior to him tearing his ACL in his first season. Understanding certain risk factors can help you avoid and protect yourself from a serious knee injury.
Bethany Bethany is a current UCF student who is finishing her undergraduate studies this year and pursuing physical therapy school shortly after.  She is researching about ACL injuries and risk factors in female athletes.  She is currently participating in an internship at Pursuit Physical Therapy.  Thanks Bethany!          

Contact us at 407-494-8835 or go online at and schedule a Pre-Sport screening today and see if you are at risk for a knee injury.  Call now!

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