|Women who play sports like basketball that involve extensive jumping and pivoting are known to be much more susceptible to knee ligament injuries than men. A new report suggests some reasons and what women can do about the problem.
Writing in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery this month, researchers from the University of Michigan said men appeared better able to contract the muscles that support the knee and protect its ligaments.
Women involved in some sports are up to eight times as likely as men to rupture the ligament toward the front of the knee, the anterior cruciate ligament, the study said. But they should not feel discouraged from participating in the sports, the researchers said.
"I think it's important for them to know that the deficit exists, and this may be why they are getting injured so many more times than males are," the lead author, Dr. Edward M. Wojtys, said. "But the good news is we're starting to work on training programs to change this."
To test whether women are as able as men to stiffen the knee intentionally, the researchers used machines that assessed the knees of 12 men and 12 women, all college athletes, to see how they reacted to stress. The results showed significant differences in muscle responses.
Dr. Wojtys said women involved in sports like basketball should pay extra attention to strengthening the muscle groups that protect the knee ligaments, including the quadriceps, hamstrings and calves.
Sports medicine experts, he added, are close to devising training programs to reduce the injuries.
"For years," he said, "we've been training female athletes just like men. Women have their own needs."
-- New York Times - May 13, 2003