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With the FIFA Women's World Cup only a day away, women's sports have never been more exciting as they are right now. But along with the thrills on the field comes the inevitable anterior cruciate ligament tears that are up to 6 times more common in females than males. The peak age for these injuries is 15-19 years old.

What does the ACL do?

The ACL connects the shin bone (tibia) to the thigh bone (femur) and is one of two ligaments inside your knee that control the forwards and backwards motion of the joint, as well as restricting too much rotation of the knee joint.

Causes of ACL injury?

Athletes generally tear their ACL by;

  • changing direction rapidly

  • jumping and landing awkwardly

  • coming to sudden stop

  • direct contact (in a tackle)

Why are females more prone to an ACL tear?

  1. Females tend to have less hamstrings and gluteal muscle development. When female athletes jump and land, they more often and awkwardly and in positions that place more stress on the ACL, increasing the risk of it tearing

  2. Female ligaments tend to be less stiff with more laxity due to oestrogen. Recent research indicates more ACL injuries are likely during the higher oestrogen levels of a woman's menstrual cycle

  3. Women tend to have a smaller notch in their femur where the ACL attaches. A smaller notch has been shown to increase your chance of tearing your ACL in both males and females

What can be done to prevent ACL injuries in female athletes?

  1. Ensuring that female athletes do a proper warm up. Something like FIFA 11+ has been shown to reduce the likelihood of sustaining an injury - an it only takes 20 minutes to complete

  2. Our physiotherapists can help you with an exercise program to improve your gluteal, quadriceps and hamstrings strength

  3. Incorporating neuromuscular strength training, proprioceptive training, plyometric strengthening, sore strengthening, balance training and speed training into your prevention program

  4. Working with your physiotherapist to learn to jump and land in a safe position to place less stress on your ACL

The results of a recent systematic review suggest that ACL injury rates are reduced by 60 per cent in teams that perform injury prevention programs that include plyometric exercises compared with teams that do not.

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