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Are Knee Injuries More Common in Women?

Woman suffering painful knee injury.

At universities across the country, including Drexel, student athletes are arriving on campus to start training for the upcoming year. As the collegiate sports season begins, the risk of injury, especially common knee injuries, increases.

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, female athletes are two to ten times more likely to endure a knee injury while participating in the same sport or activity as males. "Reasons for the increased risk in women include anatomical, biomechanical and hormonal differences," says Ellen Casey, MD. "The true answer is likely that it's a combination of all of these factors."

ACL: A Pain in the Knee

One of the biggest problems for female athletes is a knee ligament injury, with the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), a particular area of concern.

"The ACL is one of four bands that acts as a stabilizer of the knee joint," says Casey. "An ACL tear can occur as a result of trauma, but more commonly it is due to quickly changing direction, stopping abruptly or landing too upright. Common signs and symptoms include immediate pain, swelling and a feeling of instability or buckling."

Female athletes may also suffer from:

  • Abnormal tracking of the patella (knee cap)
  • Medial Collateral Ligament (MCL) tears
  • Meniscus tears
  • Stress fractures of the tibia or foot

If you have suffered an injury, it is important to seek proper and immediate care from a medical professional. Self-diagnosis and treatment can be detrimental to proper healing.

Sports Career Enders

While none of the aforementioned injuries are life-threatening, some may hinder future athletic performance. The recovery process for ACL injuries can be quite long and arduous, but may not limit women from continuing their athletic careers. In some cases, such as tears, surgery may be required. Furthermore, women with ACL injuries are at significantly increased risk of developing arthritis in the injured knee within 10-20 years of the original injury. Therefore, prevention is key to avoiding short and long-term problems.

How to Prevent Knee Injuries

The risk of knee injuries, including ACL tears have been shown to be reduced through training programs that are designed to increase strength, endurance and coordination of the muscles in the core, hips and thighs.

Knee Injury Recovery/Treatment Protocols

Some minor knee injuries or pain may improve with activity modification, ice and analgesics. If pain persists despite these measures, it is best to see your doctor. For more serious knee injuries, skilled rehabilitation through physical therapy, diagnostic imaging and possibly injections or surgery are indicated.

Comprehensive Care for Sports-Related Conditions

Diagnosing and treating sports-related injuries requires a team of specially-skilled physicians who know what it takes to get their patients back to the activities they love. At Drexel Sports Medicine, our doctors provide athletes of all ages and skill levels—from recreational to elite—with individualized attention and treatment. Under the care of our respected sports medicine physicians, our patients have access to cutting-edge diagnostic and medical technology for the treatment of sports-related conditions.

The information on these pages is provided for general information only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment, or as a substitute for consultation with a physician or health care professional. If you have specific questions or concerns about your health, you should consult your health care professional.

The images being used are for illustrative purposes only; any person depicted is a model.

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