Do Female Athletes Experience More Knee Pain Than Males?
Yep. Did you know that female athletes are up to 8 times more likely to experience knee pain, including tearing their ACL, vs male athletes? Soccer and basketball players have some of the highest numbers and I wonder as Lacrosse becomes more popular for girls, if we wont see higher numbers of knee injuries here, too.
There have been a number of theories out there on why this is, but a main reason that has been extensively researched is due to the fact that when boys and girls hit puberty, something changes in their brain and the message to fire the girls hip, butt, and hamstring muscles for some reason is a moment delayed, putting excessive use and stress on the quadricep muscle and knee joint. Without the muscles at the hip and the back of the leg working as efficiently as they should, the thigh bone (femur) tends to roll in causing a twist at the knee. That twisting motion could at the very least cause the knee cap to not track as well causing pain around the knee cap (called the patella) or pain along the inside of the knee joint due to the abnormal forces along the knee, or at it’s worst the twisting motion could be at such a force that the stress causes a tear to the meniscus and/or the ACL.
But there is good news. Some of this lack of firing and abnormal twisting and increased forces at the knee can be improved. What PT’s call neuromuscular retraining (retraining your brain to fire the right muscles at the right time with the right form) is something we work on with patients every day. Often we are seeing people to retrain and strengthen this area after pain or injury has set in, but more and more often I am seeing people for preventative reasons. Their doctor or their coach or their parent may notice that someone’s leg looks like it is rolling or twisting inward rather than keeping the leg in a more straight, aligned form and they come into PT for specific ex’s to correct this form. PT’s are trained in improving not only specific muscle strength (in this case, hip, hamstring, core and glut muscles are typically a big focus) but also in improving how the body moves (biomechanics) and we have great success in reducing the stresses to the knees, helping to prevent what could be a season ending injury.
If you or someone you know has knee pain or your form just isn’t quite right as you are running or kicking that soccer ball, don’t hesitate to see one of us at OSI to help you with this. It could make you more successful in your sport in the long run!