Female athletes tear ACLs at triple the rate of men

The number of ACL injuries has tripled since 2000 and while the focus has been on male athletes like Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, females are actually three times more likely than men to tear their ACLs.

Multiple recent studies evaluated ACL prevention exercises -- focused on balance, strength, and proper landing techniques-- and found they can significantly reduce the risk of injury for women and girls.

The Navy women's soccer team does them at every practice.

Navy soccer player K.D. Woolard knew she tore her ACL, the second it happened.

"I was running very quickly to the ball and I stopped too quickly and my knee just gave out," Woolard says. "It's so common with soccer players that the pain and the way my knee fell, I knew."

A new study in the January issue of Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons found that females are three times more likely than males to tear their ACLs.

"They have a little bit more valgus or knock-kneed position at the knee, so because their knees turn in a little bit, it pre-disposes them to this injury," Dr. Barry Boden says.

Boden says teenage girls - like 16-year-old Katelyn Thomas - are especially prone.

"I know about 5 or 6 people - 5 or 6 girls - who have torn their ACL in the past year."

"Creating a strong hip will protect the knees a little bit," says Joe Fondale, Navy strength and conditioning coach. "Creating strong ankles will help protect the knees as well."

And though the exercises may not prevent every ACL injury, Navy women's soccer coach Carrin Gabarra says they're certainly helping her players. And they only take about 15 minutes a day, compared to six months to a year of recovery for an ACL tear.

"How would I not do something that could possibly prevent one player from having an horrific injury?" Gabarra asks.