March 9, 2018
Something that has been in the news quite a lot lately is the increased rate of Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries that are occurring in the AFLW league. Studies have shown that females are 4-6 times more likely to injure their ACL than males! But why is this the case and what puts females at further risk of an ACL injury?
Recent research has found females are at a greater risk of ACL injuries for a number of reasons. The following reasons appeared most on an analysis of these studies:
– Greater Q angle: A ‘Q angle’ is the angle in which the femur meets the tibia. Women have a wider pelvis than men to make childbirth easier. This increased Q angle can decrease the stability of the knee joint due to biomechanical factors.
– ACL Strength: Studies have also shown that females on average have decreased ACL strength compared to males, a smaller intercondylar notch (hole where the ACL inserts) and increased joint laxity which could all lead to an increased risk of ACL injury.
– Strength and Genetics: The knee joint requires a solid foundation of strong muscles surrounding it to keep it stable and free from injuries. Hamstring strength is very important as it decreases the speed at which the knee can extend and it works alongside the ACL in decreasing the anterior translation of the tibia (meaning the tibia shifting forward in the knee joint, a primary function of the ACL).
Considering the strength of muscles around the hip and trunk as well as the knee and ankle is important in addressing any biomechanical abnormalities such as anterior pelvic tilting, knee valgus (knees caving in) and foot pronation (feet collapsing in – no arch).
Common muscles that would benefit from a specific strengthening program include hamstrings, gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, quadriceps (specifically VMO muscle), trunk muscles and gastrocnemius (calf). Strength in these muscles can assist with decreasing ACL injury rates, however an individualised approach is always the best.
In the next few blog posts we will touch more on specific biomechanical abnormalities, why they may be putting you at an increased risk of an ACL injury and of course some strategies to decrease these risks. We will also include the top three exercises that have proven to be most successful in reducing the the prevalence of ACL injuries by up to 60%.