The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of four ligaments that provide stability to the knee joint. These fibrous bands attach bone to bone and help control excessive motion of the knee joint and keeps the lower leg from sliding too far forward. Of the four major ligaments of the knee, the ACL injury is the one most commonly injured. The majority of ACL repairs that occur each year are done on young athletes (under age 25) and female athletes.
What Causes an ACL Injury?
ACL injuries are common in sports that involve sudden changes of direction, such as football, and soccer. Most are non-contact injuries that occur during sudden twisting motion (for example, when the feet are planted one way and the knees are turned another way) or when landing from a jump
Are Women At Higher Risk of ACL Injury?
The causes of ACL injury have recently been the focus of research. Factors contributing to ACL injuries include ground hardness, grass type and cleat type. But one of the other major findings is that women are nearly three times more likely to have ACL injuries than men. And some statistics says that a female soccer player is eight times more likely to injury her ACL than a male soccer player.
Researchers believe this may be due to differences in hormone levels on ligament strength and stiffness, neuromuscular control, lower limb biomechanics, ligament strength and fatigue. Findings have show a difference in neuromuscular control in women when landing jumps (women appear to have less hip and knee flexion than men).
How Do I Prevent an ACL Injury?
Athletes can reduce their risk of ACL injuries by performing training drills that require balance, power and agility. Adding plyometric exercises, such as jumping, and balance drills helps improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions and ultimately shows a decrease in the risk of ACL injury. Many team physicians now routinely recommend an ACL conditioning program, especially for their female players.