The anterior cruciate ligament is the major stabilizing ligament of the knee joint. It is one of the most common sports related injuries that leads to athletes losing significant time on the field and can be career altering. One in 3000 athletes will experience an ACL tear in general according to the Orthopedic Specialists of North Carolina.
There are two types of ACL tears that occur in athletes, contact and non-contact injuries. Contact injuries lead to tear as the result of collision or impact, while non-contact ACL tears are the result of simple plant and pivot. It is the latter, the non-contact ACL tear, that female athletes experience at a rate 5 times greater than males.
I am fortunate to have a great resource on this topic, friend, childhood lacrosse buddy, lacrosse podcast co-host, and trainer to the stars Steve Jordan (SteveJordanFitness.com). According to Steve, there are key reasons why females are structurally at greater risk for ACL injury:
- Females’ knees are more “turned in” (toward the midline of the body).
- Females’ knees are less bent when jumping and landing.
- Females jump and run with the soles of the feet in a more rigid position and directed away from the body’s center of gravity.
Much of these differences, according to Steve, is the result of unique anatomical difference in the pelvic cradle of females that is designed to facilitate child bearing.
In light of these findings, we not only have a better understanding of the answer to the question of why female athletes are so much more predisposed to ACL tears, but also have the ability to prescribe a solution. Even more exciting, the solution is not some new, outlandish, complicated, surgical procedure requiring months of recovery, but a comprehensive preventative rehabilitation program that can be performed by any athlete.
In the lacrosse club that I preside over in my community, we are fortunate to have a girls coach that is a physical therapist by trade, whose main role is to warm our girls up and coordinate conditioning sessions designed to prevent ACL tears and other injuries. I believe it is in the best interests of any female athletic organization to have similar expertise in the management of injury prevention programs. Whether it be a physical therapist or a highly educated and experienced athletic trainer like Steve Jordan to integrate into an organization for this purpose, it is a worthy and justified investment that will prove priceless in keeping the girls safe.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality through a number of topics and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.