One of the biggest concerns with sports participation, especially in women, is a tear of the anterior cruciate ligament or ACL. Female athletes have 3-6 times increased risk of tearing the ACL compared to males. Most of these injuries are more common with "cutting sports" such as soccer or basketball. Women have a narrow notch to the femur that houses a smaller ACL. They also have a "knock-kneed" alignment of the legs due to a wider pelvis. Hormonally, estrogen plays a role in increased joint looseness which may contribute to ACL issues.
There is medical evidence that ACL injury prevention programs can decrease the rate of ACL tears in young athletes. These programs focus on drills that require balance, power, and agility. Adding plyometric exercises such as jumping, landing, and balance drills help improve neuromuscular conditioning and muscular reactions. Improved mechanics from the hip, knee, and ankle position can decrease forces through the ACL.
What can a young athletic woman do to decrease the risk of an ACL tear? Female athletes must maintain an optimal level of fitness and body weight. In addition, ACL injury prevention programs can decrease the risk of an ACL tear while contributing to enhanced athletic performance.