Why Sports-Women are four times more prone to ACL injury?

The collective awareness regarding the importance of sports has risen dramatically in India, and an increasing number of girls are also playing some form of sport today. Football, soccer, tennis, badminton and basketball are popular sports among girls in India.

But with increased participation in sports, doctors find sports injuries among women to be rising, and especially the Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tear to be two to four times more among women athletes and sports persons.

The ACL is a one of the four knee ligaments that are crucial to the stability of the knee joint. The ACL is made of tough fibrous material and the ligament works with the Posterior Cruciate Ligament (PCL) functions to control excessive knee motion by limiting joint mobility. 

ACL tear takes place mostly during sports activities and more than 80% of the tears are non-contact injuries. Most ACL tears occur during pivoting suddenly on one’s knee, landing with a jerk, or while twisting one’s knee.

Experts feel that women and young girls are more prone to have an ACL tear due to the structure of their knee joint. The knee joint in women have less muscle mass and also tends to be more loose, both of which contributes to instability among women.

Women also have wider hips, which affects the alignment of the knee joint, leaving them vulnerable to ACL tears when landing from a jump or turning in motion. While further studies have to be conducted on this, scientists also suspect a link with women’s hormones, making them more susceptible to tears.

The treatment of ACL tears is the same in women as men, which includes anti-inflammatory medication, physiotherapy and if required surgery. 

Sports-specialist doctors however recommend improved techniques while landing from a jump and strengthening of muscles around the knee, through a specific programme, for women playing high stress sports such as tennis, basketball, badminton, soccer etc. Also over all, strengthening of muscles and improving flexibility would be key to treatment.

Ranka Hospital, headed by Dr Ramesh Ranka, has a team of specialists to treat sports injuries related to shoulder, wrist, elbow and ankle-related injuries. They also specialise in knee-related injuries including ACL tears.

“Post treatment, it is important to take it slow with adequate rest, and increase any activity gradually,” says Dr Ramesh Ranka, chief orthopedic surgeon and medical director of Ranka Hospital.

Key to prevention of ACL injuries

  • Practicing good technique with training can help prevent most sport injuries
  • Not playing when already fatigued is a good practice to avoid putting excess tress on your muscles.
  • Good well-balanced nutrition is key to having good strength and fitness.
  • Balance between strength and flexibility and working on all muscle groups evenly is also essential to prevent injury..

Author: Dr. Ramesh Ranka

Director- Ranka Hospital, Master in Orthopaedic Surgery (K.I.M.S),  MS (Orthopaedics - Gold medal)