Feature Archive

Weak in the Knees?

Hormones and anatomy make women more prone to knee injuries.

WebMD Feature

Feb. 21, 2000 (Billings, Montana) -- You might not be a poster child for women's athletics like college basketball star Jaime Walz. But even if your physical endeavors are no more strenuous than the occasional game of softball or Ultimate Frisbee, listen to the lessons that Walz has learned. They just might save your knees.

Walz, a 22-year-old shooting guard for the Western Kentucky University basketball team, plays hard and trains religiously. She also carries a mark shared by countless other active women: a surgical scar on her knee.

The one-time national high school player of the year shredded the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in her left knee during a game in January 1998. She leapt in the air, landed on another player's foot, and heard the ominous "pop" that ended her season.

Plenty of Company

Walz doesn't have to look far for sympathy. Two of her teammates ruptured their ACLs in November of the following year. And practically every team they face includes at least one player in a knee brace.

There's a plague of ACL injuries in women's sports, and they're not limited to basketball -- or to professionals, says Timothy Hewett, Ph.D., Director of Applied Research for the Cincinnati Sportsmedicine and Orthopaedic Center. Soccer, volleyball, softball, and other activities that involve jumping, sudden stops and starts, and rapid pivots can all rip a woman's knee ligaments with remarkable ease, he says.