These days almost anyone who watches sports is familiar with the acronym ACL. Unfortunately the notoriety of the term Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) is due to the unfortunate frequency this interior knee ligament is injured in the normal course of a sports season.
ACL’s get torn when an athlete plants their foot then swivels their body in a way that torques or hyper-extends the knee.
Holland Hospital Bone and Joint Center Dr. Courtney Erickson-Adams discussing ACL injuries says that it happens only once in men for every six times in women.
Women have been playing soccer and basketball for a long time now, so the statistics aren’t a matter of an increased female participation level in active sports. Instead there are potentially physiological reasons for the increased injury rate.
Erickson-Adams said “With our anatomy compared to men is where women typically for child-bearing purposes are wider in their hips and then at an angle that goes downward and inward into the knees so the knees are almost a little bit knock-kneed to begin with,”. So the structural knee anatomy is a bit different in women but that’s not the only factor.
She also said that cyclical menstrual changes in a women’s body loosen up the joints as a mechanism for preparing for childbirth. That means that at the beginning of the cycle, tendons and ligaments may be more susceptible to tears and injuries.
ACL’s must often be repaired by surgery where a piece of another ligament is harvested and used in the reconstruction of the torn ligament.
Healing can take ten to twelve weeks.
One of the least discussed but potentially most negative consequences of an ACL knee injury is the lasting impact it has on the knee. Patients almost always develop arthritis in the knee after 15 to 20 years. Bone degeneration is very common and knee replacements for knees that have been damaged early in life are much more likely.
Additionally, knees that have experienced ACL injury are also more susceptible to meniscus and cartilage damage.