• By Ian Roth

Mayo Clinic Minute: Preventing ACL injuries in female athletes

February 23, 2018

A torn ACL is the No. 1 reason women miss time from sports because of injury. And women are three to six times more likely to tear an ACL than men.

Understanding the numbers and why women are more likely to tear their ACL is a big part of helping them avoiding injury.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

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Dr. Timothy Hewett, who heads up sports medicine research at Mayo Clinic, says the statistics show a stark contrast between male and female athletes when it comes to ACL injuries.

Dr. Hewett says ACL injury occurs in roughly 1 in 20 college level female athletes.

"At the high school level, more around 1 in 60," Hewett says. "Whereas, males, it's going to happen more like 1 in every 250 or 300."

He explains that the reason women tear their ACL more often than men is because they tend to rely on different muscles and ligaments than men while jumping and landing, and when they make cuts while running.

a medical illustration of an ACLtear

But, he says, it's possible to retrain women to do these movements differently to lower the risk.

He suggests women practice hopping vertically on one leg, and hopping forward and backward. But the key, he says, is to keep the torso straight and the balls of the feet directly under the shoulders.

He says when women learn to land with their feet under them so they don't have to rotate their knees, they cut their chances of tearing an ACL.

"We demonstrated that overall in the injuries, you could reduce the risk 50 percent," he says. "For specifically noncontact ACL injuries, you could reduce the risk about two-thirds or about 70 percent."

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