Skip to content

Women and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries

Font Size

Topic Overview

Women have more anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries than men: women athletes injure their ACLs up to 8 times as often as men athletes.1 Experts have identified three areas where differences between men and women may affect the risk of ACL injuries.

  • Body differences. Compared to men, women have a wider pelvis, a smaller ACL, a narrower area containing the ACL (femoral notch), and a greater degree of the knees pointing inward (genu valgum or knock-knee). These differences increase the risk of an ACL injury, especially when landing from a jump.
  • Muscular differences. Compared to men, women have less muscular strength, use the muscles in the front of the thighs (quadriceps) more for stability, and take a longer time to develop muscular force at a given moment. These factors result in greater stress being placed on the ACL.
  • Laxity and range of motion. Compared to men, women have a greater range of motion and "looser" knees (knee laxity), hip rotation, and knee hyperextension (how far the knee can be stretched or straightened). The increased hyperextension results in a backward curve of the knee when the leg is straight. This makes it more difficult for the muscles in the back of the thigh (hamstrings) to protect the ACL. Looser knees may also make an ACL injury more likely.

Some studies suggest that the differences in ligament laxity may be due to changing hormone levels. These studies have shown that there is change in ligament laxity during the menstrual cycle and that women are at greater risk for an ACL injury during the ovulatory phase of their cycle than at other times. Other studies have not found a relationship between the menstrual cycle and laxity in the ACL.2 How hormones affect the ACL is not known.

Recommended Related to Pain Management

Ankle Sprain

Although often associated with women in high-heeled shoes, ankle sprains are a common ailment for all sorts of athletes. About 25,000 people get them every day. And what is an ankle sprain, exactly? It’s an injury to one of the ligaments in your ankle. Ligaments are tough bands of tissue that hold your bones together. Although ligaments are flexible, all it takes is a sudden twist for them to stretch too far or snap entirely. Ankle sprains are graded according to severity, with Grade I indicating...

Read the Ankle Sprain article > >

Training and rehabilitation

Training and rehabilitation programs for women may take the above factors into account. A program may include exercises to:

  • Control inward movement of the knee.
  • Emphasize using the hamstrings to stabilize the knee.
  • Emphasize speed and reaction time of the quadriceps.
  • Control hip and trunk movement and train the hip muscles to help stabilize the knee.
  • Control knee extension.
  • Increase muscular endurance.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: June 04, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
Next Article:

Women and Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) Injuries Topics

Hot Topics

WebMD Video: Now Playing

Click here to wach video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Which sex is the worst about washing up? Why is it so important? We’ve got the dirty truth on how and when to wash your hands.

Click here to watch video: Dirty Truth About Hand Washing

Popular Slideshows & Tools on WebMD

disciplining a boy
Types, symptoms, causes.
Remember your finger
Are You Getting More Forgetful?
fruit drinks
Eat these to think better.
No gym workout
Moves to help control blood sugar.
acupuncture needle on shoulder
10 tips to look and feel good.
Close up of eye
12 reasons you're distracted.
birth control pills
Which kind is right for you?
embarrassed woman
Do you feel guilty after eating?
Epinephrine Injection using Auto-Injector Syringe
Life-threatening triggers.
woman biting a big ice cube
Habits that wreck your teeth.
pacemaker next to xray
Treatment options.
caregiver with parent
10 tips for daily life.

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.