Are women more prone to knee injuries than men
Tuesday 3 October 2017
When it comes to knee injuries women are more prone to them than men. Female athletes are 1.5 to 2 times more likely than their male counterparts to injure their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL¹.
What is your ACL?
Your ACL is a main ligament that connects the top and bottom portions of your knee and helps stabilise your knee joint. An ACL injury can cause knee instability, altered walking gait and early onset of osteoarthritis.
Why the gender inequality?
There are several factors that put women and girls at more risk of non-contact ACL injuries:
Hormones – women have an increased risk of ACL injury during their menstrual cycle as their hormones may weaken their ligament. Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston have found that women who take the birth control pill, which lessen and stabilise oestrogen levels, were less likely to suffer serious knee injuries².
Adolescence – following leg growth spurts during puberty, it takes time for an adolescent to develop good coordination with their newly elongated limbs, and for girls this is coupled with a sharp rise in oestrogen levels.
Biomechanical differences – women tend to land more straight-legged and their knees tend to fall inward on landing, bending, jumping and pivoting. This means the force is greater and unevenly distributed.
Weaker muscle support – women tend to have smaller, weaker muscles that support their knees and may compensate by using their ligaments to absorb force on their knees.
Greater imbalance between quadricep and hamstring muscles – women generally have stronger quads and rely on these to stabilise their knee which can compress and cause stress in the knee joint.
The Q angle - the angle of the thigh bone from the knee to the pelvis relative to vertical, and a wider pelvis may make women’s knees less stable.
What can be done to prevent ACL injury in women?
Make sure you warm up before exercise and warm down afterwards.
Wear good quality footwear that is designed for your sport or exercise.
Learn how to jump and land properly. You should flex your hips, knees and ankles when you land to absorb the force of the landing.
Start any new exercise programmes slowly.
Lose weight if you’re overweight. Excess weight puts increased stress on your knees.
Consider exercises that increase your core stability, agility, flexibility and balance such as Pilates or specific exercises.
Do exercises to strengthen your knees and legs, such as cycling, stepping or walking up stairs or slopes.
You could seek advice from a sports coach or physiotherapist. They can offer strength and conditioning programmes, as well as injury work.
Sports and exercise offers many health and psychological benefits for women as well as for men. It’s important as a woman, that you do what you can to prevent yourself from knee injuries as you may be more susceptible to them your male counterparts.
Physiotherapy at Winfield Hospital
Here at Winfield Hospital we offer a full physiotherapy service including education and self-help programmes for sporting women and women with knee injuries.
We offer Pilates classes that are led by one of our physiotherapists. They provide an exercise programme that focuses on correct movement quality, core stability and increased postural awareness.
We are pleased to also offer patients with ACL injuries our anti-gravity treadmill that decreases the impact at your knee joint when running or walking. It has unique unweighting capabilities that will reduce pain and stress on your joints whilst allowing you to maintain a normal gait.
For further information or appointments call 01452 337246 or contact us.
² Aaron M Gray, Zbgniew Gugala, Jacques G Baillargeon. Effects of Oral Contraceptive Use on Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injury Epidemiology. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2015; 1 DOI: