Why are girls at more risk for ACL Injury?

Posted on November 12, 2014

Adolescents tend to be a high risk category for ACL injuries, but why? As girls and boys hit puberty and begin to experience growth spurts, they all of a sudden have a longer trunk and limbs that they’ve never been accustomed to controlling. That requires a lot more strength! As teens are trying to better learn how to control their longer bodies, they are also at greater risk for knee injuries. Specifically, girls are at a higher risk for a few reasons:

i. Girls have a wider “Q-angle”. The Q-angle is the angle from your hips to your knee. Girls have a wider pelvis to be able to give birth, thus a wider q-angle. It’s not the at rest q-angle that’s the problem, but when we move and cut in sports, it takes less to increase that angle even more when the knee dives in; we call that the “dynamic q-angle”. The larger the dynamic q-angle with a movement, the higher the risk for injury.

ii. Girls tend to hit puberty and grow faster, earlier than boys. This means they need to control their longer limbs at a younger age and simply haven’t developed the strength yet.

iii. Girls have less testosterone and growth hormone during puberty than boys making it tougher for them to get as strong as fast as boys. They can get there, they just have to work at it a little harder!

In summary, teenage girls have a larger q-angle to start with and thus have less room for error in controlling their knee when they move. When running, cutting, and jumping, if we don’t have the proper hip strength and control, our knee tends to dive inside our foot, thus increasing the dynamic q-angle. Since teen girls have longer bones to control at a younger age, already a larger q-angle, and need to work harder to develop more strength, they’re at greater risk for injury!

There is growing research that plyometric (jumping/hopping/running) strength training under skilled supervision of a movement expert (Physical Therapists) to work on improved hip strength and improved knee alignment can greatly decrease the risk for ACL injury. At Sport and Spine Physical Therapy in Albany and Corvallis we are able to screen for injury risk and help create a safe, appropriate exercise program to help decrease your risk, and your child’s risk, for ACL injury as well as injury anywhere else in the body!

If you have any questions please comment on this post or give us a call at 541.928.1411 in Albany or 541.752.0545 in Corvallis!

Let’s work together to decrease youth injuries!

Dane Happeny, DPT

Picture from: http://marathonmercer.wordpress.com/2012/02/11/stretching-the-truth-it-bs/

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