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Female athletes more likely to tear ACL than boys

Published On: Oct 15 2012 11:03:29 AM EDT

Female ACL tears


New studies show an alarming statistic regarding knee injuries and female athletes: girls are five times more likely to tear their ACL than boys.

Saige Steinmetz was 12 years old the first time she tore her ACL, the anterior cruciate ligament.

"It popped out and I screamed for my coach and that was it," Steinmetz said.


She now plays for an all-female football league where last year she tore her other ACL.

"Now in the football league, we've had three girls including me tear their ACLs this past season," said Steinmetz.

At OAA in Allentown, Dr. Laura Dunne says there are a number of reasons why girls are more at risk for ACL tears than boys.

"We looked at the anatomy, we looked at the hormones. We looked at the structure and finally we started looking at the function. And the answer is: it's multi functional. All of these things are a factor in this," said Dr. Dunne.

The ACL is a small, rubber-band-like fiber, no bigger than a little finger, that attaches to the femur in the upper leg and the tibia in the lower leg to stabilize the knee. Surgeons say the ACL doesn't so much tear, it sort of explodes, so the repair is complicated and the recovery long -- six to nine months -- usually even for a professional athlete.

"For the next two years, you have to work to get back to where you were and that's a lifetime when it comes to sports," added Dr. Dunne.

Physical therapists say girls need to learn to jump and land correctly, and they need to strengthen certain muscles to protect their vulnerable knees.

"We have to look at how they're functioning with jumping, cutting to try to get their knees in the appropriate location over their toes," said Howard Knudson, physical therapist.

He says parents should look for prevention programs to keep their girls in the game.