The ACL Epidemic in Female Athletes - What Should Female Athletes Be Doing?

Updated: Apr 23

In the first part of the series I discussed what you needed to know and if you didn't see that you can read the blog here: In this blog I discussed some ACL data, why females are at greater risk, and where we are going wrong. Today's focus will be about what coaches and female athletes should be doing to reduce their risk of the dreaded ACL Tear Epidemic!

What Should We Be Focusing on to Reduce ACL Tear Risk? The good news is there is plenty of research on ACL tears in female athletes and one of the areas where there is actually more for females then males. There are plenty of things we know and still things we are still finding out. Research shows us there are a number of factors that may increase a females risk greater then males, but we don't have control over some of these areas, so we will focus on the areas that we do, which is: Biomechanics and Neuromuscular Control! Here are some of the key areas based on the latest research findings, that female athletes should be considering to help reduce their risk of a potential ACL tear: 1. ) Biomechanics: Females tend to have biomechanical inefficient patterns that predispose them to increased ACL tear risk, especially with change of direction, jumping and landing mechanics. These patterns can easily be improved by a professional who understands functional biomechanics and is an essential step in decreasing your risk, since many ACL injuries happen during these deceleration patterns. 2.) Ligament Dominance: Research has shown female athletes tend to rely on ligament dominance vs. muscular contractions during some exercises, which increase the ground reaction force stresses into the knee and increase their risk of going into greater dynamic valgus angles. Proper functional training of the appropriate muscles combined with neuromuscular training can greatly decrease the risk in this area for female athletes. 3.) Quad Dominance: Female athletes tend to recruit and use their quads more during various movement patterns, thus causing greater stress on the knee and ACL due to the biomechanical changes that happen during movement patterns. A greater focus on functional training of the glutes and hamstring, in conjunction with sound functional biomechanics can help decrease a females ACL tear risk. 4.) Leg Dominance: Research has shown that female athletes appear to show greater strength imbalances on one side vs. the other, thus altering their movement patterns. The weaker side will not be able to dissipate forces as well and the stronger side may increase torque stress due to compensation, both putting their knees at greater risk. Proper single leg training specific to their needs can help decrease these differences and lower their ACL tear risk. 5.) Trunk Dominance: Female athletes also show a great reliance on abnormal trunk motion, especially lateral flexion, which increases the lever arm stress at the knee and potential excessive dynamic knee valgus. Proper reactive core stabilization training can help improve the strength/stability in this area, as well as improve their movement patterns so that the knee is not placed under abnormal stresses. These are some of that areas that research has shown that lead to possible increase risk in ACL tears in female athletes, but I can't STRESS this enough, it is essential that female athletes go through a proper 3D biomechanical evaluation. A proper evaluation will determine the areas that specific female athletes needs to focus on not just from an ACL injury reduction standpoint, but also from a sports performance standpoint. A sound sports performance program should be focusing on all these areas already and if not, make sure you find one that does, so your female athletes does not become part of the ACL tear epidemic. I will be bringing you some videos in upcoming blogs that will go more in-depth in the above areas that should be a part of every female athletes sports performance program. Yours in Success, Coach Jeff

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