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Why women's knees are more prone to injury and what you can do to protect yourself Men and women are different in a lot of ways, but one area of difference that may surprise you concerns their knees.
Many people think that women's knees are merely smaller versions of men's knees, but that's hardly the case. In fact, the anatomy is different—and so is the risk for injury. Women are two to eight times more likely than men to injure the ACL, according to the National Institutes of Health. Why the difference? There are three main reasons. Let's take a closer look:
The anatomical difference between men's and women's knees actually stems from the hip joints. Women tend to have wider hips than men and so the angle at which the thighbone connects the hip to the knee (called the Q-angle) is more pronounced in women than men.
A number of scientists link female hormones to knee injury. Some studies, but not all, have shown that female athletes are more likely to suffer knee injuries during ovulation, a time when estrogen levels are high.
Posture and form also play a role in knee injury, according to researchers, who point out that women tend to run in a more upright position than men, thus building stronger quadriceps muscles than hamstrings and creating an imbalance in knee support.
Being a woman doesn't have to mean experiencing a knee injury. Follow these tips to protect this overexposed joint:
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese puts a lot of pressure on your knees, literally. Severely obese women are 25 times more likely to have torn cartilage than normal weight women, according to one study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
Wear supportive shoes. The proper shoes and arch supports can help balance your body's Q-angle and help prevent injury.
Work the front and back muscles. Strengthen your quadriceps and hamstrings both so that neither has a bigger pull on your knee joints than the other.
Practice technique. Landing on the balls of your feet instead of flat-footed may help prevent some knee injuries. If you play a sport that involves a lot of jumping or pivoting, such as basketball or tennis, find a coach who can teach you proper techniques for landing and moving correctly.
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