Athletic Performance: The Q Angle and the Female Athlete
Written by: Jason Harrell
A not so fun fact: research states that females are at least eight times as likely to sustain an ACL (anterior crucial ligament) injury from a non-contact mechanism than their male counterparts. There are many outside forces that could potentially contribute to such a large number of females with ACL injuries, but the main issue is actually a biomechanical difference between men and women. The female body is built to do really cool and amazing things... like childbirth. It is because of this women have a wider pelvis than men and therefore, a greater Q angle.
So... What's a Q angle? The Q angle is the direction of pull for the quadriceps muscle and the alignment of the patella tendon as it attaches to the tibia. Due to women having a greater angle, forces are more concentrated on the ligament each time the knee twists, increasing the risk for an ACL tear. When you think of how the athlete needs to jump, pivot, change direction, and react reflexively to their environment the knee can become a competitive disadvantage for women if not assessed and trained properly. In addition to the Q angle, there are other elements that contribute to ACL tears in women, such as joint laxity, hormone shifts, anterior/posterior hip tilt, ankle position, and overall strength. Knowing these variables allows a strong and specific program to be built, not only to improve the athletes performance, but also to prevent injury.
Next week we will discuss what exercises can be implemented within a strength program to help prevent ACL injuries.