My junior year of high school, 7 girls on our soccer team and 3 girls on the volleyball team tore their ACLs. ACL stands for Anterior Cruciate Ligament, a ligament that keeps the knee stable. The entire team spent the entire summer going through training to make sure our ACLs were strong enough for the season to avoid the same experience happening to some of our players again. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention,” 46,000+ female athletes younger than 19 tore their ACLs in 2006. Not only that, but girls are about 5 times more likely to tear their ACLs than boys.”
To understand this, we first must understand the basics of how ACL injuries occur and what exactly they feel like.
ACLs are generally torn 1 of 5 ways:
- Changing directions quickly
- Stopping quickly
- Slowing down pace
- Landing incorrectly
- Direct collusion
- Pain and swelling
- No full range of motion
- Discomfort walking
- Popping noise/knee gives out
The physical make up of boys vs. girls has a lot to do with the explanation. Women have a Narrower intercondylar notch and smaller ACLs. With them both being smaller, it makes women much more prone to injury. Women also have a slower reflex response time than men. Because of this, it would take longer for women to respond and stabilize the body to avoid injury. Women’s ligaments also tend to be more elastic than men’s, causing them to be more vulnerable to injury.
Another theory is women have have more elastic muscles than males. This means their muscles are more flexible than men’s. Because of this, women have a fuller range of motion than men, causing more chance of injury.
Scientists has before that women don’t respond as quickly as men do when stabilizing the body. Because of this, by the time a women stabilizes, it is too late, causing injury. When also tend to land flat footed, unlike men, who generally land on the balls of their feet after jumping, according to Dr. Boden.
So how do you prevent this from happening to you?
There are many different precautions that can be taken to avoid this injury:
- Training your legs and core– research exercises to help strength your legs and core. A strong body will lead to less injuries.
- Balance and speed training– Improve your balance and agility.
- Jumping/Landing practice and training– Work on learning how to jump and land properly. It is less likely you will get hurt if you know how to move to avoid injuries.
- Proper/supportive shoes– SHOES ARE IMPORTANT. Your feet/body should be supported at all times during activity to help avoid injuries.
- ALWAYS warm up and stretch– Warming up before exercise is essential to avoiding injuries. It gives your muscles a chance to get warm after not moving for a while before getting thrown into a quick pace environment. Stretching afterwards gives your body a chance to cool down after activity.
Do what you can to avoid this injury and set yourself apart from the 46,000+ girls effected every year by ACL tears! Train hard, warm up, stretch, and invest in proper equipment!
Click here to watch a video on some ACL prevention exercises.