It is well documented that women suffer 4-6 times the number of knee injuries during sport than do men.
A few years ago, our team at the Cincinatti Sportsmedicine Research and Education Foundation attempted to determine whether this statistic could be reversed by specific training of women prior to undertaking sports activities [see original publication].
The National Collegiate Athletes Association (NCAA) estimated an incidence of 1 in 10 knee injuries amongst the 100,000 American collegiate women participating in sports each year.
They drew attention to the massive cost - pointing out that cruciate ligaments alone in this group cost US$37 million a year! They estimate the total annual cost of serious knee injuries in USA women athletes (high school plus college) to be in the order of US$100 million a year.
In our study we set out to determine whether specific pre-sports training might reduce this crippling expense.
What did we find?
There were no serious knee injuries in the volleyball players in any of the groups. Taking the results for soccer and basketball, though, we found the untrained female athletes had 5.8 times the number of knee injuries than the men. Lack of training particularly predisposed the women to ACL injury.
Training significantly reduced the number of injuries in women, but even then this group had 2.4 times the number of injuries as the men, suggesting that factors other than training are also very relevant.
We recommend that serious attention be given to instituting similar training programmes in women's teams where jumping and landing put the ACL at risk, in order to reduce cost both in terms of medical care and personal suffering. Specifically hamstrings-to-quads ratio should be optimised to protect the ACL.