Reasons Women Are More Likely to Tear Their ACLs
Did you know that women are four to six times more likely to tear their ACLs than men are? We have the reasons why, and what you can do about it.
First things first: The ACL is a ligament running through the middle of your knee, and its main job is to provide rotational and overall stability by limiting the amount of movement between the tibia and femur.
Women are more likely to have issues with this ligament because the wider a person’s pelvis is, the greater the angle between the femur (the thigh bone) and the tibia (the shin bone), says Tehrany.
There’s also the issue of the notch in the femur bone around the ACL. It’s usually smaller in women, which also has been linked to a higher risk of tearing. Sadly, both are anatomical things that we can’t do a darn thing about.
You can blame your cycle for mood swings, cramps, cravings… And now, you can blame it for an increased risk for ACL injury.
“When there are hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle, women’s ligaments and joints can get looser,” says Tehrany. “Women usually have looser joints and ligaments than men to begin with, and then the menstrual cycle can make them get even looser, which means that during pivoting sports or shifting of the knee, the ACL is under more risk of tearing.”
Women were shown to have a higher risk for ACL tear during their pre-ovulatory phase of their menstrual cycle (the section of their cycle before ovulation) than the post-ovulatory phase of their cycle (the section of their cycle between ovulation and the next period), according to a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training.
Time for the good news! There’s a risk factor you can control: the balance in strength between your quadriceps and your hamstrings.
“A lot of times a woman’s hamstrings are not as strong as the quadriceps,” Tehrany says, but it’s hard to determine whether you have an imbalance on your own. “Women should seek out a professional either a physical therapist or personal trainer for advice on whether or not they have stability between the quad muscles in the front of the knee, versus the hamstring muscles on the back of the knee.”