Woman running at sunrise

Nothing literally takes the spring out of your step quite like an ACL injury.

Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a ligament in your knee that supports all kinds of movements. Biking, walking, running, playing soccer, skiing—if you’re on your feet, you need a healthy, intact ACL. Without it, your knee could be too unstable to support even simple activities like walking.

This means any kind of ACL injury—from partial tears, to total detachment—can have immobilizing effects on your everyday activities.

The good news: you don’t have to wait for an injury to start preventing one.

Why do women have a higher risk for an ACL injury than men?

Active women and girls are four to six times more likely to experience an ACL tear than men, and most cases occur between ages 15-45.

Although ACL tears commonly occur during contact sports, only 30% happen during a moment of contact with another person. The majority of injuries occur during a poor landing, sudden stop, twist or pivot, and are often accompanied by a loud popping sound.

The slight differences in pelvis and hip alignment between men and women may give women a disadvantage. A female’s knees may be more likely to turn in or be in a locked position when landing from a jump or pivot. Combined with other factors like strength, flexibility, and even hormones, a female’s risk is higher.

Active women and girls may have the most to gain by practicing ACL injury prevention.

5 ACL injury prevention tips for women

1. Strengthen

Start with a strong base. That means strengthening your hamstring and gluteus maximus muscles with exercises like lunges and body squats. Focus on activating those muscles during exercise. Ask a trainer to help evaluate your form and ensure you are using your muscles.

2. Stretch

Stretch regularly and deeply to increase your flexibility. Focus on being able to perform equally well on both sides of the body. Since most people have a dominant arm and leg, muscle growth and flexibility may not develop symmetrically. Over time, these imbalances can become large enough to increase your risk for injury.

3. Focus

When your form is compromised, injuries are more likely to happen. Factors like fatigue at the end of a workout or game, starting a new sport or not getting enough rest can distract from the control you need over your form. Ultimately, this could lead to injury. Remember to keep your knees moderately bent and shoulder width apart. Also, remember to take care of your body.

4. Perform

Starting a new sport or workout program is a great way to rekindle interest in fitness. Before you give 110%, spend time to learn the movements and add intensity when you begin to feel comfortable.

5. Recover

Accidents happen! People from all walks of life experience ACL injuries and they are common among both professional athletes and regular people alike. Practicing patience and properly re-strengthening the leg muscles is critical to preventing another injury. Some people may use a knee brace to prevent another injury, however, braces should not be used without regular therapy and strength training for the recovering leg.

When patients come to CORE with an ACL tear, we customize the treatment to match the severity of the injury and the goals of the patient. RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression, Elevation) may help more minor tears while surgery is common in more severe cases or complete tears.

We want our patients to get the most out of their abilities. Please contact us with any questions you have about injury prevention or treatment.

ACL injury quick facts

  • Active females are four to six times more likely to have an ACL injury than active males.
  • Most ACL tears happen in people ages 15-45 when they are more likely to be involved in contact sports and activities that involve quick pivoting or landing on one leg.
  • People who have a previously-repaired ACL increase their risk for injury by 15% on the same knee and increases the risk of tearing the ACL in the non-injured knee by 15%.
  • 70% of ACL injuries do not happen during a moment of contact.
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