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Injury Time Out with Capilano Rehab: Torn ACL

| May 30, 2016 | Reply

Painful Knee Close-upUnfortunately, sports injuries can happen to any athlete.  Boys or girls.  Men or women.  Generally speaking, sports injuries do not discriminate.   So why then are female athletes (specifically soccer players) so prone to Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) tears?  Studies have shown that young female athletes are 4-6 times more likely than boys to suffer a serious, non-contact ACL injury.[1]

Understanding Your ACL  

Your ACL plays a vital role in the function of your knee.  Your ACL attaches your femur (thigh bone) to your tibia (shin bone) and serves two purposes.  1) Your ACL helps prevent your tibia from sliding out in front of your femur and 2) your ACL helps provide rotational stability to your knee.  So why are girls more prone to ACL tears than boys?  There is not a cut and dry explanation, but current evidence suggests that girls generally have less neuromuscular control of their knee motion during athletic maneuvers.  The lack of neuromuscular control can cause females to land in a dynamic valgus position (knee rotated in), causing increased stress to the ACL.  So what are these neuromuscular differences that can lead to ACL injuries?

  • Muscle imbalance:  girls tend to have more quadriceps strength compared to hamstring strength.  With a bigger co-contraction of the hamstrings during quick changes of direction or landing from a jump, ACL strain has been shown to be reduced significantly. Because this co-contraction does not occur as strongly in girls it causes girls to not bend their knees as much in these movements and thus the tibia shifts forward on the femur and straining the ACL.
  • Muscle strength:  girls and boys competing in the same sports, at the same competition level are putting similar rotational forces and loading forces through their knee, yet boys have significantly more muscle strength.  Instead of relying on musculature that surrounds the knee to hold the knee in place, girls end up relying on the ligaments to help stabilize.  These ligaments end up having an increased stress placed on them and over time can weaken, leading to rupture (tear).
  • Core strength: girls tend to have less core strength and stability than boys.  This causes the centre of mass to shift away from the base of support.  Generally girls’ center of mass ends up being behind and away from their base of support, leading to increased pressure on the ACL.

How can you help prevent an ACL rupture? 

At Capilano Rehab Centre, our registered Kinesiologist will take you through a specific program that will focus on strength and neuromuscular training to help prevent dynamic knee valgus.   The exact components of your program will vary from one person to the next, but they will focus on addressing the lack of neuromuscular control.

What if my ACL has already ruptured?

Unfortunately, you have a long road ahead, but with proper rehab your knee can be strong and functioning properly once again!  At Capilano Rehab Centre we have a variety of treatments that our trained Physical Therapists will choose from to create a physical therapy rehab program specifically for your knee, and where you are at in your rehab program.  Options may include: Graston Technique, K-Laser® Therapy, Acupuncture, Active Release Therapy, Return to Sport Training with our Kinesiologist and BIODEX Isokinetic testing.  Call 780-466-1104 to see one of our skilled Physical Therapists, or our Kinesiologist.



[1] Barber-Westin SD, Noyes FR, Galloway M. Jump-land characteristics and muscle-strength development in young athletes: a gender comparison of 1140 athletes 9 to 17 years of age.  Am J Sprts Med. 2006;34(3):375-384.
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Capilano Rehab Centre | Physical Therapy Capilano physical therapists have provided state-of-the-art physical therapy, sports physiotherapy, back pain, WCB, accident, whiplash and injury rehab to clients in Edmonton for over 10 years.

5832 Terrace Rd Edmonton, AB. T6A 3Y8

(780) 466-1104

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Category: Active Living, Kinesiologist, Knee Injury, Physiotherapy, Sports Rehab

About the Author ()

I am Capilano Rehab Centre’s Community Care Coordinator. I have been with Capilano Rehab for 9 years primarily as a Physio Assistant, but also as a Receptionist. I have a Physical Education Degree from the University of Alberta, which I will eventually use when my two young children are grown up. In the mean time I am enjoying helping people in the Community through my role as Community Care Coordinator and bringing awareness to how a Physiotherapist can help you get back to the activities you love the most!

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