As one who has survived 4 knee surgeries (soon to be 5, but none ACL-related), this topic hit home with me. I particularly enjoyed talking to Dr. Susan Sigward, who has done a lot of research on the possibility of preventing ACL injuries.
We discussed at some length the psychology of injury prevention, a topic that didn’t make it into the post because of time. I had joked that I wished there was a way to prevent my surgeries, and she pointed out that many teenagers are impossible to convince that injury prevention is important, given the invincible nature of adolescence. Would I have listened to someone if I’d known the road that had been ahead of me? Who knows? But if I ever have a little girl who loves to dance, like me, I’m sure I’ll do my best to convince her that my path was pretty painful. (Whether she’d listen to me, of course, is the question for another day.)
Preventing ACL injury
As teens return to high school and start practicing varsity sports, parents sit on the sidelines and hope it’s not their child that has a serious injury like an ACL tear. Which types of athletes are at a higher risk for ACL injuries? What can athletes do to prevent them?
All of our experts agreed that female athletes were at a much higher risk for non-contact ACL injuries. Robyn Smith, a physical therapist at The Center for Physical Rehabilitation (a Physiquality network physical therapy clinic) and lecturer on ACL injuries in female athletes, says that female athletes sustain ACL injuries “anywhere from 1.5 to 4.6 times more often than males in the same sport.” A variety of intrinsic factors cause these higher rates of injury, including alignment, anatomical differences, a smaller and thinner ACL, and coordination.
The sport being played is also important to consider. Lee notes that the types of movement that lead to non-contact injuries often involve quick stops, cutting movements (when intercepting passes), and sudden changes in direction. So sports that involve such movement, like basketball, soccer, volleyball and football, will put players at a higher risk for ACL injury.