The Physical Repercussions of Playing Hard

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Photo courtesy of | Women are much more likely than men to sustain certain injuries.

Brigit McDannell ’18
Sports Editor

Playing sports, whether it’s on a varsity team or on intramural club, can be dangerous. Putting one’s body through intense physical stress can put one at risk of sustaining injury or trauma. Because men and women move and play differently, women can be prone to certain injuries that men are not prone.

While many injuries can be sustained by both men and women, some are more common in one sex than in the other.  Muscularskeletal injuries, like an ACL or meniscal tear, are a result of skeletal anatomy. Patellofemoral pain is associated with patellar misalignment and quadriceps weakness, which are seen more commonly in women.

The quadriceps femoris angle, more commonly known as the “Q angle,” has been implicated as the source behind several knee disorders. This angle measures the amount of force applied from your quadriceps to the kneecap. High Q angle indicates that the kneecap does not articulate over other bones as well as it should.

According to a study conducted by physical therapists Melissa G. Horton and Terry L. Hall, the average Q angle for women ranges from 15.8 to 45 degrees, and for men it ranges from 11.2 to 30 degrees. This means that when a woman is bends her knee and applies weight, the patella is less likely to move safely. The quadriceps are pulling against the kneecap, causing it to shift laterally and applies unwanted pressure, which results in knee pain.

Additionally, women who participate in jumping or pivoting sports are two to ten times more likely to sustain a knee ligament injury than men in the same sport. Dr. Timothy E. Hewett’s research on ACL tears and gender differences indicates that decreased neuromuscular control and valgus knee torques, which is rotational pressure applied on the body, attributes to the cause of injury. Weakness in neuromuscular control at the hip and torso may contribute to decreased motor control of the lower leg, increasing strain on knee ligaments. Hewett suggests that strengthening the core and pelvic girdle is the best way for women to decrease the risk of an ACL tear.

Female athletes — especially those who play sports like soccer, lacrosse and basketball — which require quick knee rotation, should be weary of ACL injuries. The National Institute of Health estimates as many as 70 percent of ACL injuries involve little or no contact with another player, meaning an athlete can injure their knee at any point of whether that is in a championship game or in a simple weekly practice. An ACL injury left untreated by surgery increases one’s risk of developing osteoarthritis by 50 percent over the next decade. If you are prone to injury and play a sport, you should speak with an athletic trainer about how to prevent pain and injury.

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