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It’s a trend happening on playing fields and basketball courts at an alarming rate: a young girl jumps or pivots and collapses in excruciating pain. In fact, teenage girls sustain serious knee injuries, like ACL tears, at much higher rates than boys playing the same sports.
The environmental, hormonal, and biomechanical differences between males and females are all possible factors when looking at the causes behind the higher rate of ACL tears in females. Sports that involve significant cutting and jumping, such as soccer, basketball, tennis, and volleyball, give females a higher risk of injury.
Experts say the higher risk for females between the ages of 14 and 18 is due to a lack of neuromuscular control during landing or cutting. Muscular growth tends to lag behind coordination, so when young female athletes participate in high levels of athletic competition before their bodies have developed to handle it, they experience greater muscle fatigue, increasing the chances of an ACL injury.
Part of the solution is conditioning and strength training; however, time to rest is also important so young athletes aren’t overworking themselves and increasing their chances of an ACL tear.
While not entirely preventable, the chances of suffering an ACL tear can be minimized by undergoing training programs designed to address risk factors associated with them. Should an ACL tear occur, reconstructive surgery may be necessary to stabilize the knee. Physical therapy is also an important part of the recovery process.