Anyone who has suffered a knee injury will tell you; it’s no fun at all. And if you’re a woman, the chances of you sustaining one are far more likely than if you were born a guy. Studies of football players showed that females are up to 5 times more likely to endure serious knee ligament damage. Other estimates place the figure at 8 times more likely to injure their knee. But why are women more likely to get a knee injury?
Firstly, women’s hips and pelvis are generally wider than men’s. This means that extra strain is put on the joints, making them more susceptible to issues. Some research suggests that women are more likely to angle their knees inwards slightly as they land because of their wider pelvis. In doing so, women would be creating more work for the knee and make it more likely to come to harm.
In addition, the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is often smaller in women than men. Again, this means the defence it has against ruptures, strains, and another damage is lessened.
Women are also predisposed to have more “give” in their muscles than men. This is an advantage in terms of flexibility, but a disadvantage for joints. As the ligaments are also often laxer, they are not protected in the same way as men might be once there is a lot of movement involved in a workout or sport.
There are also theories that women’s ACL is weaker at certain times during the menstrual cycle due to fluctuations in oestrogen.
One key way to help support your knee is to work on your hamstrings. Typically, women have weaker hamstrings than men in relation to their quads. This imbalance of strength within the legs can cause excess strain on the ACL. So, next time leg day rolls around, give your hamstrings the attention that they deserve.
It may seem an obvious one, but always remember to bend your knees when you are landing. Whether it’s jumping to catch a netball, or completing a burpee, your calves need to take the strain of your landing. They do this best through landing on the balls of your feet. Bending your knees reduces the force of landing by 25%. Make a point to concentrate on this next time you work out or play a sport. Ask someone to spot you throughout – you may find you’re landing inconsistently without realising.
Of course, you should also warm up and down thoroughly when undertaking any exercise. Give your muscles the protein they need to recover after every workout. This will keep them strong and injury free, so they can, in turn, support your joints, like your knees.
As you can imagine, the knees are important aspects of a huge amount of the movements we make. Every jump, squat, bend and pivot relies on our knees being in good shape. So make sure you take care of them!