Post provided by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
Significant differences in knee alignment and muscle activation exist between men and women while kicking a soccer ball, according to a study published in the Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery. Data reveals that males activate certain hip and leg muscles more than females during the motion of the instep and side-foot kicks – the most common soccer kicks – which may help explain why female players are more than twice as likely as males to sustain an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury.
Prior research shows that females are more prone to non-contact ACL injuries than males and though many theories exist, a direct cause for the disparity is unknown. “By analyzing the detailed motion of a soccer kick in progress, our goal was to home in on some of the differences between in the sexes and how they may relate to injury risk, ” said orthopedic surgeon Robert H. Brophy, MD, study author and assistant professor of orthopedics, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “This study offers more information to help us better understand the differences between male and female athletes, particularly soccer players.”
The study found that male players activate the hip flexors (inside of the hip) in their kicking leg and the hip abductors (outside of the hip) in their supporting leg more than females. “Since females have less activation of the hip abductors, their hips tend to collapse into adduction during the kick, which can increase the load on the knee joint in the supporting leg, and potentially put it at greater risk for injury, ” Dr. Brophy said.
In 2008, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a study that found a new training program called the Prevent Injury and Enhance Performance (PEP) program, was effective in reducing ACL injuries in female soccer players. Developed by the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation and supported by the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons among other medical and athletic associations, PEP is an alternative warm up regimen that focuses on stretching, strengthening and improving balance and movements and can be conducted during regular practice time and without special equipment. “Programs focusing on strengthening and recruiting muscles around the hip may be an important part of programs designed to reduce a female athletes’ risk of ACL injury, ” said Dr. Brophy.