Why Are Female Volleyball Players More Susceptible to ACL Injuries?

female volleyball players
By Fara Rosenzweig

The ACL plays a critical role in every athlete’s life, providing stability in the knee as quick stops and directional movements are made. However, not all athletes move as quickly as volleyball players—whether they’re diving into the sand or lunging toward the net.

With so much sudden pulling and tugging happening to this intra-articular ligament, the chances of it tearing are very high. However, the chances of this happening are much higher for females than men; this is the case for most sports where athletes are expected to pivot in jump.

In fact, female athletes who play these sports are 2 to 10 times more likely sustain a knee ligament injury, according to Dr. Tim Hewitt, Director of sports medicine research at Ohio State University.

There are a number of reasons for this, many of which can be modified. An ACL study published in the Journal of Athletic Training suggest three that are modifiable, including:

  • Playing style
  • Preparation
  • Skill acquisition from a young age

There are also extrinsic, intrinsic and combined contributing factors, which cause high rates of ACL injuries for both males and females. For females, some of these reasons include:

  • Intrinsic (not controllable): Alignment and hormonal influences—lack of testosterone
  • Extrinsic: Strength and conditioning—men often have more training at a young age that prepares them for high-demanding sports conditioning, as opposed to women
  • Combined: Acquired skills and neuromuscular activation patterns/training

The authors of the ACL study mentioned previously found that there were at least two ways to lower the incidence of ACL injuries in female athletes, including volleyball players.

Improve neuromuscular training: In observing 1,263 trained and untrained women, ACL injury rate was 3.7 times higher in untrained female athletes versus trained, and 4.6 higher than trained males. This makes proper conditioning from a young age critical.

Improved landing: Landing from a jump in the attack zone was the most frequent cause for serious knee ligament, ACL injuries in female volleyball players, according to a study in The American Journal of Sports Medicine. Teaching proper landing techniques, including keeping knees bent is important.

As a female volleyball player, or the coach of a team, know that there is a way to see improvement in these rates with training and movement coaching. Use the scientific data to support any training changes or new coaching practices, to ensure they’ll be successful.

What else can you do for prevention?

Bracing has been proven to help prevent injuries. If you have previously injured your ACL or had it repaired, try one of these braces to prevent further injury: DonJoy Female Fource, DonJoy A22, or DonJoy Fource Point. Looking for prevention? Try the Playmaker II with Fourcepoint Hinge by DonJoy or shop all volleyball braces.