How Women Can Avoid ACL Tears
A local doctor explains why so many female athletes get hurt and how they can prevent major knee injury
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Female athletes involved in high-risk sports (basketball, soccer, volleyball et al) suffer injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, at an exponentially higher rate than male athletes, and that becomes more troubling as larger numbers of young women join high school and college teams. There are two main reasons for that discrepancy, according to Westchester resident Stephen J. Nicholas, MD, founder and director of NY Orthopedics, which has a location in Scarsdale.
"With women, there is a wider pelvis and, because of that, the angle that the knee makes with the hip is acute," Nicholas explains. "This causes the force on the ligament to be greater and leads to a more likely giving-way of the knee.” Second, he continues, “Women tend to land with straighter knees than men, which puts more stress on the ligament," which means most ACL tears sustained by women happen in non-contact situations.
Luckily, both male and female athletes can participate in knee-injury-prevention programs that teach specific techniques for safer play. Because per Dr. Nicholas's advice, just as crucial as performing well on the court or field is a willingness "to understand how the injury occurs and the mechanisms behind it."