Fall is here, and that means football season is well under way. It also means lots of news stories about players suffering from injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a major ligament that supports the knee joint.
ACL injuries are so common in football, it’s easy to think that men are the ones most affected. But actually, that’s not the case: Women are at risk of having ACL injuries, too. In fact, ACL injuries are much more common among women compared with men.
In Vestavia Hills, Alabama, Thomas Powell, MD, and the team at Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine have extensive experience in treating ACL injuries in female athletes — and in preventing them, too. Here’s what you can do to keep your knees healthy and avoid getting sidelined from the sports and activities you love.
The ACL is one of four major ligaments that keep your knee stable and help it function the way it’s supposed to. The ACL is located in the middle of the knee joint, where it supports your knee and prevents it from bending too far forward.
While the ACL can be injured by a direct impact to the knee, most ACL injuries occur due to changing direction rapidly while running or landing awkwardly after a jump. Excess stress on the ligament can cause it to tear, either partially or completely.
While researchers know women experience ACL injuries more often than men, they’re not sure why. However, they think it’s probably a combination of factors, including differences in anatomy, biomechanics (the way your body moves), and technique. Hormonal fluctuations may even play a role.
While scientists are still learning why ACL injuries happen more often among women, they do know the risks of these injuries can be decreased by doing some key activities, such as the following:
Warming up is essential for all athletes, because it delivers oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, tendons, and ligaments so they’re ready for action. Ideally, your warm-up activities should be tailored to your sport to ensure the right areas are targeted.
Just as most of us are either left-handed or right-handed, many of us favor one leg over the other. Whether you’re stretching or strengthening, be sure to focus on both legs to avoid strength or flexibility differences that could increase your risk for injury.
Your knees depend on strong muscles for support and to avoid injury. Be sure to eat a healthy, well-balanced diet that’s high in protein.
Working closely with a coach or sports therapist can help you expand your skill set and improve your technique. Not only could this help protect your knees from injury, but it could make you better at your game, too.
Despite the popularity of the phrase, it’s never a good idea to “play through the pain.” Pain means your knee isn’t functioning the way it’s supposed to, and ignoring your symptoms could wind up causing an injury. If you have chronic or recurring discomfort, call the office right away to have your knees evaluated.
Dr. Powell uses advanced techniques to repair ACL injuries, including state-of-the-art arthroscopic surgery for serious ligament tears. His experience as a leading sports doctor enables him to tailor every treatment plan to suit the patient’s symptoms, anatomy, and sport.
If you think you’ve injured your ACL, or if you want to learn more ways to prevent knee injuries, call 205-606-5232 or book an appointment online with Powell Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today.