Women's Knees, How to Avoid Injury

What happens when your knees get hurt?

Knee injuries are very common, especially for people who play a lot of sports. Injury can affect any of the ligaments, bursae, or tendons surrounding the knee joint. Injury can also affect the ligaments, cartilage, menisci (plural for meniscus), and bones forming the joint. The complexity of the design of the knee joint and the fact that it is an active weight-bearing joint are factors in making the knee one of the most commonly injured joints.

Arthritis also is a serious knee problem for many people, especially as we get older.

How do doctors find knee problems?

Doctors find knee problems by:

  • taking your medical history,
  • doing a physical exam,
  • doing an x-ray of the hurt area,
  • doing a CAT scan (Computerized Axial Tomography) of the hurt area,
  • doing an MRI scan (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) of the hurt area, and
  • doing surgery to check out and repair the hurt area.

Do women have more knee injuries than men?

Yes. Women are two to eight times more likely than men to have certain kinds of knee problems like ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears. The ACL is the ligament (strong, elastic bands of tissue that connect bone to bone) that stabilizes the knee. It prevents the knee from moving side to side and forward and backward.

Is there any connection between knee injuries and estrogen?

There may be a connection. Studies have shown that female athletes are more likely to have a knee injury when their estrogen levels are highest, during ovulation. However, doctors don't know why high estrogen levels would lead to injured knees.

How can women keep from getting knee injuries?

Here are some ways to avoid knee injuries:

  • "Warm up" (stretch) your leg muscles before and after you exercise.
  • Take it slow when starting a new exercise program.
  • Wear good shoes that fit well and are right for the kind of sport or exercise that you are doing.
  • Maintain a healthy weight to reduce stress on your knees
  • Strengthen your leg muscles by doing specific exercises (walking up stairs or hills, or riding a stationary bicycle)
For more in-depth information about knee pain, causes and treatments, please read the Knee Pain article.

Some of the above information have been provided with the kind permission of The National Womens Health Information Center (www.4woman.gov).

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Last Editorial Review: 7/6/2004