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Men May Be More Prone to ACL Injuries

A Swedish study finds differences between men and women in knee injuries and surgical repair of them.

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A torn ACL, like the kind suffered by Tom Brady, can sideline you for up to a year. No one is immune, but men may be more prone than women to this kind of career-changing (or ending) knee injury.

A new Swedish study, published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine, looked at cruciate ligament (CL) injuries in men and women across that country. Unlike other studies, the researchers included a wide range of people, not just at-risk groups.

Cruciate ligaments are important for stabilizing the knee. Each year, 80,000 CL injuries occur in the U.S., with most of them involving the ACL—anterior cruciate ligament. ACL tears often occur in sports that involve quick turning or pivoting, such as basketball, skiing, or soccer.

Swedish researchers found that of the over 50,000 CL injuries in Sweden, 60 percent occurred in men, with men accounting for 59 percent of the reconstructive surgeries for these knee injuries. Women, however, tended to suffer CL injuries when they were younger—before age 20—compared to between 21 and 30 years old for men.

Overall, 36 percent of men and women opted for surgical repair to fix a CL tear. These people tended to be younger than those who chose physical therapy, possibly because they are more likely to be still playing sports.

The researchers point out that CL injuries are more common than previously thought, which makes prevention—such as with joint stabilizing and muscle strengthening programs—more important for professional athletes and weekend warriors.

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