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Pearls with Paige: Female ACL Injuries

August 13, 2018

 About every 1 out of 100 female high-school athletes playing high-risk sports such as soccer, basketball, handball, and tennis will injure an ACL before she graduates. In college-level players, the risk rises to 1 in 10 – a much higher rate than among male athletes. Although the ACL can be repaired, and the knee can be stabilized enough to get athletes back on the field within 6 months, 20 percent of those who continue to play sports for 3 years will reinjure the same knee or tear the ACL in their other knee.

Although studies are limited, the most successful approach thus far has been to train girls to mimic movements that male athletes seem to do naturally. When boys play sports, they instinctively keep their knees and hips flexed and their upper bodies equally balanced over their lower extremities—positions that help protect them against ACL injury.

Female athletes tend to maintain a more upright position and extend their legs farther while playing. When they jump, they often land in an upright position and are less likely to land on both feet—actions that make them more vulnerable to ACL injuries. Therefore, many orthopedists are lobbying schools across the country to adopt injury prevention programs.

Coaches, trainers, and parents who know firsthand how devastating an ACL injury can be are most responsive to these efforts, but getting the coaches of younger girls to pay attention is more difficult.

Carolyn Rogers, Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

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