Did you know that women are up to eight times more likely to suffer ACL injuries than men? Crazy! Now listen to this: An interesting new study out of Oregon State University may have figured out why.
It has to do with both body type and how women land on their feet when they jump, spring and run. While men and women both tend to land stiffly (ugh, our poor knees), the study found that women are 3.6 times more likely to land with knees pointing slightly inward—in other words, in a knock-kneed position.
“We found that both men and women seem to be using their quad region the same, so that couldn’t explain why females are more at risk,” said Oregon State’s lead author Marc Norcross in a press release. “Using motion analysis, we were able to pinpoint that this inability to control the frontal-plane knee loading—basically stress on the knee from landing in a knock-kneed position—as a factor more common in women.”
Rothman Institute sports-medicine surgeon Chris Dodson says these findings confirm the results of previous studies, including one he worked on. “In our study, we videotaped men and women jumping up and down in the gym. We could clearly see that, compared to men, women’s knees turned slightly inward when they landed,” he says.
Dodson says that women’s wider hips are to blame, creating an angle at the knee instead of the straight line men typically have from hip to knee to ankle. That angle could cause the knee to turn in.
He advises female patients to work on strengthening muscles in the leg, specifically the quads, to help prevent the knee from turning. Here are six exercises the American Council on Exercise recommends to shore up your body against ACL injuries:
• 3-D Matrix Hop: This is a functional exercise that simulates the same reaction that you would experience as you ran forward, cut to the right, ran forward again and then cut to the left. You rotate off the right leg, propel back and then off the left leg, and back. (Similar to this.)
• 3D Matrix Lunge: This lunge calls for a standard forward lunge, the a diagonal or 45-degree lunge to each side, as well as a lateral lunge to the right and to the left.
• Single-Leg Balance Squats: These squats call for driving the legs forward, by squatting on one leg only.
• Mirror Matrix: The 3D Matrix Lunge can be made more reactive by doing this exercise. Partners take turns anticipating and following each other as they move through the matrix pattern. Add arm movements to increase the intensity and complexity of this activity.
• One-Legged Hopping: This exercise starts on either your left or right foot jumping over an imaginary straight line.
• Two-Legged Jumping: Stay forward on the balls of your feet and jump with both feet right to left over an imaginary straight line.