Differences Between Sexes Extend to Knees
are a common hazard for athletes -- especially those who play
basketball, volleyball, soccer or other sports where knees are
subjected to turning, twisting and jerking.
But a new
University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) study shows that female
athletes may be at an even greater risk for a certain type of knee
injury than their male counterparts due to the differences in the
muscle structure around the knee.
are capable of protecting ligaments and preventing injury," said Dr.
Edward M. Wojtys, professor of orthopedic surgery at University of
Michigan Medical School and director of sports medicine at UMHS.
"Female athletes are two to eight times more likely to tear their
anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) because they may not be able to
achieve the same muscle stiffness across the knee joint."
the study "one piece of the puzzle" in determining the differences
between female and male athletes and, consequently, providing for the
training and conditioning needs of female athletes in a safe, effective
studied male and female athletes who play "pivoting" sports, like
volleyball, basketball and soccer, as well as "non-pivoting" sports
such as cycling, crew and running.
that female athletes in the pivoting sports often had less muscle
protection at the knee than their male counterparts," Wojtys said.
"That lack of muscle protection, which helps absorb the load on the
knee joint, may contribute to the injury susceptibility."
researchers found, women who played jumping, turning, twisting sports
actually had the poorest ability to protect themselves against
factors, like how an athlete lands from a jump, may also be factors in
injury risk," said Dr. Freddie H. Fu, chairman of the department of
orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. "It's important
that female athletes learn proper jumping and landing techniques as
part of their conditioning and training."
Wojtys said male and female athletes generally are trained the same way. But this research suggests that may be a big mistake.
"We may need
to train female athletes differently. The long-term scenario is to try
to find rehabilitation and training tools that will specifically help
female athletes because they seem to be more susceptible to this type
of injury," Wojtys said.
Women who are
active in sports also are susceptible to developing a condition known
as the "Female Athlete Triad," which involves disorded eating that can
range from mildly disordered eating to severe eating disorders such as
anorexia and bulemia, amenorrhea, absence of menstruation, increased
risk for stress fractures and the development of osteoporosis.
found that there are certain types of stress fractures that may be
predictive of underlying osteoporosis and these fractures are seen in
patients with disordered eating," said Dr. Jo A. Hannafin, associate
professor of orthopaedic surgery at Cornell University Medical College
and orthopaedic director of the Women's Sports Medicine Center,
Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.