The Troubling Rise of ACL Injuries in Young Female Athletes

Dr. Erol Yoldas, Orthopedic Surgeon

Dr. Erol Yoldas, Orthopedic Surgeon

Tears of the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) have been the scourge of male athletes for decades, causing everyone from star NFL quarterbacks to high school lacrosse players to miss entire seasons while devoting months to rehabilitation. Today, ACL tears are having an even more significant impact on young female athletes as more girls begin participating in sports at an early age.

Erol Yoldas, MD, orthopedic surgeon and fellowship-trained sports medicine specialist at Broward Health, has witnessed the shift firsthand. When Dr. Yoldas underwent training two decades ago, he witnessed many more ACL tears in male athletes than their female counterparts. Today, he sees four female patients for ACL tears at the Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center for every one male patient with the injury. Dr. Yoldas points to three risk factors to explain girls’ susceptibility to ACL tears.

• Girls use their muscles differently than males when jumping, landing and cutting in non-contact activities, and their reaction times seem to predispose them to ACL injury.

• Female anatomy, such as a wider pelvis, distributes force differently across the knee than in males and exposes the ACL to increased stress.

• Female hormones, which can change the elasticity and shape of the body, have sometimes been shown to affect the strength of the ACL.

“Preventing ACL tears in young female athletes involves re-educating them on how to jump and land,” says Dr. Yoldas. “They must learn how to avoid landing in a valgus position and instead do so with their kneecaps pointed forward. Re-education can certainly be addressed by a practice like the Orthopedic Sports Medicine Center, but it should most properly be covered by coaches and athletic trainers in preseason conditioning beginning in middle school.”

Watch Dr. Yoldas perform a LIVE ACL Repair on a young female athlete.


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