Statistically speaking, females are 4-6 times more likely to have an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury than males playing in the same sport. ACL injuries are on the rise costing Americans as a collective whole upwards of $3 billion a year in treatment and management.
ACL injuries prevent athletes from playing in their sport. To try and prevent so many ACL injuries, prevention methods can be taught during physical therapy. Physical therapy can teach better neuromuscular control. Neuromuscular control is a trained response for dynamic stability of a joint. This is most commonly referred to as muscle memory.
Female athletes who have poor muscle memory, or neuromuscular control, tend to have difficulty controlling their lower extremity alignment during functional activities and have an increased risk of experiencing an injury to their ACL. According to The American Journal of Sports Medicine, they also have been shown to have a “greater tendency to allow their knee to collapse in toward the other knee” during sporting activities which also increases their risk of an ACL injury.
Many physical therapy-based programs have demonstrated an ability to reduce ACL injuries among female athletes and consists of sport-specific agility exercises and addresses potential deficits in the strength and neuromuscular coordination of the stabilizing muscles around the knee joint.
Four primary factors that play a contributing role to women athletes having more ACL injuries include: the difference in muscle memory between males and females, structural differences between males and females, hormonal differences, and bio-mechanical differences.
According to APTA spokesperson Mark Paterno, “women tend to perform athletic tasks in a more upright position, putting extra stress on parts of the knee, resulting in less controlled rotation of the joint”. Where men use their “hamstring muscles more often, women rely more on their quadriceps, putting their knee at constant risk”. To combat these natural tendencies, physical therapists may develop a treatment program to improve strength, flexibility, and coordination, as well as to counteract incorrect existing patterns of movement that may be damaging to joints.
Come see us here at Valeo Physical Therapy and we can help you with a program to prevent an ACL injury from happening so you can keep playing the sports you love!
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