Screening Tools to Identify Female Athletes at Risk for ACL InjuryIt's clear now that female athletes are at greater risk for anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears compared to men. The risk is the most in sports that involve pivoting and jumping. Such movements put a high load on the knee joint. In this article screening for risk factors and training to decrease ACL injuries are discussed. The authors review many of the latest research studies on the causes of ACL injury in adolescent female athletes.
There are many theories about the whys and whats of ACL injuries in females. Factors such as thigh length and shifts in hormone levels have been suggested as part of the problem More recently deficits in neuromuscular control have been linked to ACL injuries. But scientists don't really know how these affect ligament strength or lead to injury.
Studies show that before puberty, boys and girls have the same pattern of muscular control in the knee and leg. After puberty there are fewer fractures but more ligament sprains. Males continue to increase in power, strength, and coordination as they get older. Girls show very little change during puberty. This lack of a "neuromuscular spurt" may increase the risk of ACL injury.
The authors present ways to test for ligament and muscular imbalances. Ideas for neuromuscular training to correct these problems are also presented. They suggest physicians test female athletes for any deficits. Specific training to reduce the risk of ACL injury is advised.
Gregory D. Myer, et al. Preventing ACL Injuries in Women. In Journal of Musculoskeletal Medicine. January 2006. Vol. 23. No. 1. Pp. 12-38.
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