Knee Injuries Lead to ACL Tears and Osteoporosis

Torn ligaments occur more often in women than men

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Being involved in sports is a good way to learn social skills, get some exercise and meet people. But certain sports can be more taxing on bones and ligaments.

Nearly 90,000 high school athletes injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) every year. Soccer, football, basketball, volleyball and skiing seem to be the riskiest sports for ACL damages. Not all ACL injuries can be prevented but warming up before exercising may reduce your chances.

Researchers also found women have a four to six times increased chance on injuring their ACL, and later in life women with osteoporosis may experience more knee issues as compared to men.

Timothy Hewett, Ph.D., a professor and director of sports medicine research at Ohio State University’s Sports Health and Performance Institute, and other experts believe women are more prone to ACL damage because their muscles have not completely or fully developed. Women might use other muscles to balance out undeveloped muscles causing extra strain on the knee and thus a possible ACL tear.

"Warm up before you exercise to prevent an ACL tear."

This is extremely problematic for women because a torn ligament could increase their chance of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a joint disorder that causes pain and stiffness in joints.

Puberty brings different changes for both boys and girls, but women don’t see a large increase in power like boys their age, Hewett tells the Wall Street Journal. Women usually use their front thigh muscles or quadriceps to balance their knee joints, but generally they have a hard time controlling their trunks, he adds, because of this women collapse inward, in a knock-kneed position and thus risking injury.

Jim Crowell, fitness expert, agrees, “I see many athletes and especially young women who come into my gym with very week bodies. When they don't strengthen the big muscles around the knee and the small stabilizer muscles close to their tendons, their bodies cannot handle the running, cutting, and loading that they put on it.”

Hewett and colleagues have developed a six to eight week exercise program that will help athletes prevent ACL injuries. The researchers focus on strength-training, agility training, plyometrics and more. This exercise program can be shortened into a warm up before a games or practices to prevent injury as much as possible.

Crowell does similar things with his clients, “I teach them how to properly air squat, lung walk, use strength bands properly, and stretch so that they can strengthen all of the muscles around their knees. I also teach them how to run, cut, change directions, and back pedal because they are typically never taught how to properly move their bodies.”

“The other important piece that all athletes need to do is to warm up properly. Instead of only static stretching I recommend that all of my athletes get their blood flowing but moving their bodies to warm up. When you take your body through an entire range of motion with a dynamic warm up you will prepare your muscles far better to play sports. Warm up properly, strengthen the pieces, and be technically sound and you will cut your chances of injuries greatly,” Crowell suggests.

Hewett says on average, 50 percent of all injuries can be reduced by doing standard warm-up training routines.

There are other programs that are specifically directed at preventing ACL injuries. The Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) program was developed by Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation in California. The program includes warm up drills that focus on bounding runs and lateral diagonal runs that will increase flexibility and strength in surrounding muscles.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
September 21, 2011
Last Updated:
September 28, 2011