ACL Tears: It’s a Girl thing?

If you’ve watched much of the AFLW or Suncorp Super Netball recently you can’t escape the publicity surrounding escalating ACL Injury rates, especially in females. The ACL is a ligament in the knee, vital for stability in change of direction sports involving agility, jumping and landing. Injury traditionally means reconstructive surgery and 12 months out of sport!
A research study published in 2018 showed that the rate of ACL reconstruction surgery has skyrocketed in Australia in the last 15 years, with the highest incidence in girls aged 15-19 years old and males in their early 20’s. Worryingly, there was a large increase in 10-14 year olds having major knee surgery.

These figures match up with what we’re seeing in our practice gym. In the last 12 months we’ve seen our youngest reconstruction patient, a 13-year-old female soccer player. These worrying numbers make us ask why this is happening?

Why?

Females are 5-9 times more likely than males to rupture their ACL. The reasons usually offered include different hip and knee biomechanics due to a wider pelvis after puberty, and hormonal influences recuing ligament stiffness.
I would also guesstimate the explosion in junior female soccer participation numbers over the last 15 years and, more recently, more Rugby League and AFL opportunities for young girls are contributing to the increase in girl’s ACL injury rates.

What can we do?

The major sporting codes are attacking this knee epidemic head-on, with specific injury prevention programs available to help improve players movement skill, strength and co-ordination. These have been rolled out at a professional level, and are trickling down to grassroots clubs. Research studies show 37-50% injury reduction in some cases

FIFA 11+: is for football (soccer) and has been around the longest and has the most solid research behind it, showing marked reductions in injury rates across varying levels and with both male and female players

Netball Australia KNEE program: is highly customised to the specific demands of netball

AFLW Prepare to Play: this program is rolling out currently, with video packages available online educating female players in the major skills of AFL.

As Physios part of our job is to try and prevent injury. These warm-up and conditioning programs are ideal as they can be done as part of team training.

If your child’s team, or club, would like some help with implementing these injury prevention programs, please feel free to contact us here at Parkside and we’ll come out to training and show you how easy these programs are to start at your club.