Researchers Probing Reasons Why Women Athletes Suffer More Knee
Injuries Than Men
1, 2000 -- Although
women and girls have made great strides in sports, their knees may
be paying a price.
Among high school, college and Olympic
athletes, female players suffer substantially more knee injuries
than men. Injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one
of the primary stabilizing ligaments inside the knee, usually require
six to nine months down time -- a period that adds to athletes
physical and mental stress.
A collaborative effort at the University
of Virginia may be on the verge of finding out why female athletes
suffer more ACL injuries than men and how to prevent such disabling
occurrences. The subject is one of the hottest research topics in
sports medicine and athletic training.
The National Institutes of Health
has awarded researchers in the kinesiology department of U.Va.s
Curry School of Education $222,000 to support its investigation
into why females participating in interscholastic and intercollegiate
sports experience injury to the anterior cruciate ligament at a
higher rate than males. The injury happens more frequently in sports
that require changing directions while running, cutting and landing
from a jump, such as basketball and soccer.
The studies are probing the factors
that may determine if females have less joint stability and, therefore,
experience lower tolerance to stress on the knee joint. The central
thrust of the research is to determine the role that gender and
hormones play in ACL injuries and neuromuscular stability, according
to principal investigator David Perrin, the Joe Gieck Professor
of Sports Medicine and chair of the human services department, and
study coordinator Sandra Shultz, a research assistant professor.
The researchers are taking blood
samples daily from 20 collegiate females during one complete menstrual
cycle to determine estrogen, progesterone and testosterone concentrations.
The samples are drawn after the women participate in a ligament
stress test that determines how much the joint is displaced when
force is applied to it.
Twenty collegiate males serve as
controls and are tested once every seven days over a 28-day period
after undergoing the same testing.
To test the compliance of the knee,
participants are placed in a device that applies force to the back
of the calf, causing the leg to move forward, stressing the anterior
The studies will help the researchers
understand the relationship between hormone levels and how well
the knee handles stress loads. "Fluctuation of sex hormones
during a womens menstrual cycle may have an impact on the
ligaments compliance and how tight or how loose the knee is,"
Perrin said. He noted that preliminary studies have shown there
is a difference in tightness and looseness of the knee during menstrual
The NIH-funded research is based
on Perrins and Shultzs on-going research into how gender
and leg alignment affect muscle reflex times. Supported by approximately
$53,500 to date from the National Athletic Trainers Association,
the studies are trying to determine how quickly and efficiently
knee muscles respond to joint stress.
With support from U.Va.s Health
Systems General Clinical Research Center, the studies are
being conducted in the Sports Medicine/Athletic Training Research
Laboratory in the kinesiology department of U.Va.s Curry School
of Education. The Curry School researchers, including Brent Arnold
and Bruce Gansneder, are collaborating with several other U.Va.
colleagues. They include Arie Rijke in materials science and engineering,
Susan Kirk in endocrinology and Kevin Granata in orthopedics and
Contact: Ida Lee Wootten, (804) 924-6857