Men and women looking to strengthen their knees and prevent injuries need different types of training regimens, according to a recent study.
Researchers from the University of Michigan Health Systems compared male and female college athletes that competed in several different sports.
Men who participated in jumping and twisting sports such as basketball developed strength in the muscles and ligaments that help stabilize the knee, particularly the anterior cruciate ligament, which runs behind the kneecap and connects the shin and thigh bones.
Runners, cyclists and rowers did not exhibit the same protective strength in these muscles.
The same was not true for women, however. In fact, when a woman participates in a sport like basketball or soccer, she is four to six times more likely to sustain an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament of the knee than a man playing the same sport.
Researchers cite biomechanical and neuromuscular factors as the cause of this increases risk of injury.
For example, according to Dr. Letha Griffin of the Peachtree Orthopaedic Clinic in Atlanta, as girls' hips widen during puberty, the angle at which the bone connects to the knee changes.
Girls' thigh muscles, however, usually do not develop at the same pace to compensate for the extra strain.
''Women who played jumping, turning, twisting sports actually had the poorest ability to protect themselves against rotational strains,'' said Dr. Edward M. Wojitys, the study's lead author, in his presentation at the annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons in San Francisco.
''Neuromuscular factors, like how an athlete lands from a jump, may also be factors in injury risk,'' added Dr. Freddie H. Fu, chairman of the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. ''It's important that female athletes learn proper jumping and landing techniques as part of their conditioning and training.''
Source: Annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, San Francisco, Calif., February 28-March 4, 2001.
This appeared in ACE FitnessMatters, ACE's official magazine.
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