Are ACL Tears Really More Common in Female Athletes?

Are ACL Tears Really More Common in Female Athletes?

The male and female bodies aren’t built the same. And, as it turns out, these anatomical differences make female athletes more prone to certain types of injuries like anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears.

At Douglas J. Abeles MD & Associates in Castro Valley, California, our team of sports medicine experts understands that male and female athletes have unique needs when it comes to treating and preventing sports injuries.

Yes, ACL tears are more common in female athletes. Here, we explain why.

Female knee: structure and function

The male and female bodies have different anatomical structures, which creates changes in function. The female body has a wider pelvis than the male body in order to support childbearing.

But the wider pelvis changes how the bones that make up the knee joint — thighbone, femur, and tibia — function, placing additional stress on the soft tissue that supports the knee. 

Additionally, female joints are looser than male joints and have less bone development at the site of muscle attachment. And, due to hormonal differences, females also have less muscle mass than males. 

ACL tears in female athletes

Ligaments are strong, fibrous tissues that connect the bones in a joint. The ACL is a ligament in the knee that runs diagonally inside the joint, connecting the femur to the tibia. Your ACL stabilizes the knee joint and stops the tibia from moving out in front of the femur. 

The wider pelvis, looser knee joint, and naturally lower muscle mass makes the female knee less stable than the male knee, making it more prone to injuries. 

Female athletes may also play slightly differently than male athletes. For example, female athletes tend to point their knees inward and not bend far enough at the joint when landing from a jump.

The structure of the female knee and the different athletic styles make ACL tears more common in female athletes. According to Yale Medicine, female athletes are 2-8 times more likely to have an acute ACL tear than male athletes. 

Despite the anatomical differences, treatment for ACL tears is the same for all athletes, knee surgery to rebuild the ligament. 

How to prevent ACL tears

ACL tears are a common injury that requires a lengthy recovery. Though you can’t fully prevent all sports injuries, you can take steps that might reduce your risk of an ACL tear. 

To prevent ACL tears we recommend:

Female athletes are also more prone to re-injuring their ACL. Following these guidelines may reduce your risk of a retear after a repair.

Female athletes benefit from specialized care when treating and preventing sports injuries. 

We have a team of sports medicine specialists from many areas of medicine — orthopedics, chiropractic care, physical therapy, and acupuncture — who work together to help you improve body mechanics, overall strength, and athletic performance to prevent injuries.

If you have concerns about an ACL tear, whether you need treatment or want to prevent this common knee injury, we can help. Call our office in Castro Valley, California, at 510-538-0430 today to request an appointment.

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