Women who participate in jumping and pivoting sports are 8 times more likely to injure the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), compared with men. The reason for this may be weakness in the muscles surrounding the knee. Women who participated in basketball and volleyball had knee muscles that were weaker than not only those of men who played the same sports but also those of women who participated in other sports, such as crew and running, according to results of a study published in the May 2003 issue of the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery.
Cruciate ligaments crisscross in the knee. Athletes can injure or rupture the ACL by pivoting or changing direction rapidly, landing from a jump, or slowing down from running. During the study, researchers compared 24 college athletes?12 women and 12 men?who were competing in sports with a high risk of ACL injury to 28 other athletes?14 women and 14 men?who were active in sports that carry a low risk of such injuries. Participants in the study were of comparable size and weight. The researchers tested the ability of muscles to protect the knee by using a device that held the upper leg in place but twisted the lower leg. The results showed that women who played high-risk sports did the worst on this test.