Estrogen’s Effects on the ACL
Estrogen is a powerful hormone. There are many aspects of it necessary for the basic functions of life and the survival of humanity but there are also qualities that some women struggle with. Although the hormones associated with a woman’s menstrual cycle are all the same; the amounts vary from woman to woman and different amounts can have different effects on a woman. There are also varying levels of estrogen thought out a woman’s life. Hormones never make things easy but they all have a specific role in the function of our bodies.
In regards to the ACL, estrogen is not a friend. Estrogen can change the structure of the ACL; it can bind to the ACL decreasing tensile integrity and collagen production of the ACL. This weakens the ACL and can cause it to be much more lax which makes it more susceptible to injury. This could theoretically increase injury incidence rates of ACL tears during the pre-ovulatory phase of the menstrual cycle where estrogen is more prominent.
During another phase of the menstrual cycle ligaments in a women’s body go lax in preparation for childbirth one day. Imagine stepping onto the basketball court or soccer field while all of your ligaments are lax. Not a good combination!
While estrogen contributes to ACL injury rates, it is important to remember that levels of estrogen vary for each woman and continue to vary during all phases of a woman’s life. This could potentially be another reason why female athletes have a higher rate of ACL injury during the years of 12 to 17 because of the increased amount of estrogen during that time of their lives. Although we cannot get rid of all of the negative side effects of estrogen regarding ACL injury we can prevent ACL injury by addressing many other aspects that put athletes at risk. Proper screening programs should be put in place for all youth female athletic teams in order to find those who have an increased prevalence and begin a regimented prevention training program before injury occurs.