How to bulletproof your knees Part 1

She was young. Blindingly fast. The ease and speed at which she changed direction was fantastic.  She made everything look so easy.  Coaches loved her intensity; “she’s a player,” they would say. Teammates relied on her because “she didn’t take crap from anybody”.  She couldn’t be intimidated, and she was clutch when it mattered. One look at this young athlete and you would find yourself muttering, “this girl is going places”.Then you hear that terrible popping sound, followed by a scream.  Another promising athlete has torn her ACL.

The rate of ACL injuries in Women’s sport is no joke. As participation has gone up, so have the rate of injuries.  As you can see below, the most at risk sports for women are basketball, soccer and lacrosse. The need for injury prevention strategies is now greater then ever before.  But we must ask, why are these sports so bad?  Our first clue lies in the difference between male and female athletes on a structural level.

The Q angle

Women are more prone to several sports injuries than men based simply on biomechanical differences. One such difference is a wider pelvis in women then men. Many sports medicine experts have linked a wider pelvis to a larger "Q" Angle (quadriceps)- the angle at which the femur (upper leg bone) meets the tibia (lower leg bone).
On average this angle is degrees greater in women than in men. It is thought that this increased angle places more stress on the knee joint, as well as leading to increased foot pronation in women. While there may be other factors that lead to increase risk of injury in women athletes (strength, skill, hormones, etc.), an increased Q-angle has been linked to:

General knee pain
A high Q-angle causes the quadriceps to pull on the patella and leads to poor patellar tracking. Over time, this may cause knee pain, muscle imbalance.

Condromalacia of the knee
This wearing down of the cartilage on the underside of the patella leads to degeneration of the articular surfaces of the knee.

ACL injuries
Women have considerably higher rates of ACL injuries then men.  An increased Q-angle appears to be one factor that causes the knee to be less stable and under more stress.

So the question begs to ask, how can we prevent our girls from suffering so many knee injuries?  Look for Part 2 of this article.

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