Over the past few years we have seen a big spike in ACL and other knee injuries in women’s sport. Whether it be: basketball, netball or footy, more and more women are going down with season ending knee injuries. Statistically females are 4 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than men.
The big question is: Why Is This Happening?
How Do ACL Injuries Usually Occur?
- Valgus on landing (weakness through hip as well as and knees coming in on landing).
- Shallow knee flexion on landing.
- Rotation and/or lateral flexion of trunk compared to foot on landing.
being knocked pre landing.
Why Are Females At A Higher Risk Of Knee Injuries?
- Ankle strapping: This a controversial factor. In female sport there is a very high proportion of people who strap their ankles. Sometimes due to past injury, or as a precaution or policy within certain sports. However the ankle is meant to be a mobile joint which is stable through range. Which brings the question- If we are strapping the ankle to increase stability, what joint is going to compensate for the mobility? In most cases this would be the knee. The knee which is intended to be a strong stable joint is not designed to cope with mobility.
- Hypermobility without stability: Females are generally more flexible and have an increased ligament laxity when compared to males due to hormonal balance. The problem with this is that an increased level of flexibility comes with the need for more strength to create stability in comparison to those who are not as flexible.
- Increased participation in sport: Womens AFLW athletes tend to compete for a longer period during the year when you take into account the majority who also play VFLW compared to male athletes and the dual sport athletes such as Erin Phillips, Monique Conti and Sharni Leyton. A shorter preseason alongside a newly developed sporting code such as the AFLW leaves less time to prepare athletes for the season ahead and the increasing demands of the evolving code.
How Can We Fix This?
Reducing the likelihood of ACL injuries for female athletes is not an easy fix and will take time. Here are the top 3 tips that I would recommend:
- Increased preparation during preseason. Both on the field and at the gym.
- Working on ankle and hip vulnerabilities rather than masking them with tape.
- Completing a strength & jump/land mechanic program tailored to you and your past injuries by an Exercise Physiologist.