ACL Injuries on the Rise in Young Female Athletes

Dr. Kevin Plancher

ACL injuries may be common, but they don’t have to spell the end of athletic participation.

August 2017 –ACL injuries are common injury overall; however, young female athletes are far more likely than males to suffer a sprain or tear to their anterior cruciate ligament, which is vital to the knee’s stability, according to orthopaedic surgeon Kevin D. Plancher, MD, founder of Plancher Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine.

The disparity between ACL injury rates in young women and men has become increasingly clear in recent years. According to the National Institutes of Health, girls are 8 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than boys. Overall, the ACL is one of the most commonly injured knee ligaments, with about 200,000 such injuries occurring each year, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

ACL injuries are prevalent largely because of the way the knee is constructed. The ligament slants diagonally in the middle of the knee, providing rotational stability to the joint and preventing the shinbone from sliding out in front of the thighbone. Athletes playing basketball, soccer, skiing and football experience many ACL injuries because of the pivoting, sudden changes in direction, hard landings and quick decelerations required in these sports.

“Research is focusing intensely on why young female athletes are more prone to ACL injuries than boys and men,” says Dr. Plancher, who lectures globally on issues related to orthopaedic procedures and sports injury management. “What scientists are learning is not only helpful to orthopaedic surgeons, but also to coaches, athletic trainers, parents and athletes themselves. We can try to use this information to prevent these often-devastating injuries or reduce their seriousness.”

Why ACL tears in young women are increasing

More girls are playing organized sports in high school than ever before, with the Women’s Sports Foundation estimating a 900% growth in participation since the passage of Title IX in 1972. Research is revealing that girls and women are more predisposed to ACL tears or sprains because of a variety of anatomical and hormonal differences between the genders, Dr. Plancher notes.

These…

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