Your anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is a soft tissue that is part of the knee complex that connects your femur to your tibia. It is one of four primary ligaments that form the knee complex, acting like strong ropes to keep the joint stable and supported. Due to its positioning in the knee and the forces that it handles during athletic competition, it’s not uncommon for the ACL to be sprained or torn if it is overstressed.
And while ACL injuries sideline both male and female athletes, research has shown that due to a variety of factors, women are 4-6 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than males while taking part in similar activities and sports. Experts say this disparity is fueled by a few different underlying issues. For starters, a woman’s pelvis is wider than a man’s, which in turn changes how stress is dispersed on the thigh bone, tibia and femur. Essentially, a woman’s ACL endures more stress than a man’s ACL during similar movements and activities, and this leads to an increased risk of tendon ligament stretching and tearing. Women also tend to have less muscle mass around the knees than men, which can lead to a less stable joint and a higher risk of injury.
Fortunately, we are aware of these risks and we understand how pelvis and lower body structure can increase a female athlete’s risk of an ACL tear, so we can take tangible steps to mitigate this risk. One of the best ways to prevent or treat ACL tears in female athletes is by connecting with a physical therapist.
PT For ACL Injury Prevention
If you are a female athlete, especially if your sports involve running, jumping and twisting, it may be a good idea to connect with a physical therapist to learn what you can do to reduce your risk of an ACL injury. As we noted above, you are significantly more likely to tear your ACL as a female athlete, so taking just a few simple preventative measures can go a long way in keeping your knee ligaments strong and stable. Here are some of the ways a physical therapist will help to prevent ACL injuries:
- Strength Training Exercises – As we mentioned above, women may have less muscle mass in the muscles that support the knee joint, making it less stable and putting more stress on the ACL. Your PT can set you up with some specific strength training exercises to increase stability in the knee.
- Range of Motion Exercises – While the knee isn’t as flexible as other joints in your body like your elbow or shoulder, you’ll still want to have comfortable range of motion and flexibility in your knee. Athletics will oftentimes force you to put stress on your knee in a variety of ways, and by working to expand your comfortable range of motion, you can decrease the impact of the stress on your ligaments when your knee is in different positions.
- Sport Specific Training – Your knee will handle stress in different ways based on your sport, so the exercises and training techniques you pursue to protect your knee during a basketball game will be slightly different than the techniques you’d use to keep your knee healthy on a grass soccer surface. Your PT will be able to develop a routine that ensures your knee can handle the motions you perform more during your sport.
ACL Tear Treatment
In the event that you sprain or tear your ACL, you can assume that your rehabilitation will involve connecting with a physical therapist. Many of the same techniques used in a prevention plan will be followed after an injury has occurred or a corrective surgery has been conducted. The main difference is that a rehabilitation plan will take place over the course of a number of weeks or months, as gradual return to sporting activities is a must following an injury. Much of physical therapy after an ACL injury involves baseline testing and regular strength assessments to ensure that stretches and exercises are appropriate for your current condition. This careful professional guidance is what will give you the best chance of making a quick and complete recovery white also giving you the confidence to return to your sport without fear of a future knee injury.
So if you want to reduce your risk of an ACL sprain or tear, or you need help recovering in the wake of a knee injury, connect with the team at OrthoRehab Specialists today at (612) 339-2041.
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