Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

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

Joint Pain

Joints form the connections between bones. They provide support and help you move. Any damage to the joints from disease or injury can interfere with your movement and cause a lot of pain. Many different conditions can lead to painful joints, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, bursitis, gout, strains, sprains, and other injuries. Joint pain is extremely common. In one national survey, about one-third of adults reported having joint pain within the past 30 days. Knee pain was the most...

Read the Joint Pain 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.
1

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 05, 2012
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

feet
Solutions for 19 types.
highlighted areas of the brain
How well do you know yours?
oatmeal and eggs
The best and worst for you.
dog begging at table
Foods your dog should never eat.
MS Overview
Recognizing symptoms.
mature woman with serious expression
What do you know?
chlamydia
Pictures and facts.
Healthy Snack
13 delicious options.
Take your medication
Separate fact from fiction.
lone star tick
How to identify that bite.
young woman in sun
What to watch for.
woman clutching at stomach
Do you know what's causing yours?

Women's Health Newsletter

Find out what women really need.