December 21, 2001

ACL study links injury to menstrual cycle

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Dr. Kurt Spindler

ACL study links injury to menstrual cycle

Dr. Kurt Spindler and colleagues were honored recently for a study to be published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine.

“The Effect of the Menstrual Cycle on ACL Injuries in Women as Determined by Hormone Levels,” was presented at the 27th annual meeting of the American Orthopaedic Society for Sports Medicine this past summer. The study won the O’Donoghue Sports Injury Research Award, presented annually to the best overall clinical research paper.

It has been proven that women are more susceptible to tear their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) than men are; but the reasons are unknown. The study finds that women are nearly three times more likely to injure their ACL during ovulation than during other times of their menstrual cycle, according to Spindler, vice chairman of Orthopaedics and director of Sports Medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and research colleagues.

“Females have an increased frequency, or in other words a greater risk to tear their ACL at mid-cycle around ovulation,” Spindler said. “Yet, we don’t know why.”

Spindler and four researchers from across the country evaluated 65 women over three years to determine menstrual cycle phase at the time of injury. The cycle phase was determined by hormone and metabolite measurements obtained through urine samples within 24 hours of the injury.

According to the researchers, young women involved in organized sports are expected to suffer more than 30,000 serious knee injuries per year. The number of injuries in recreational sports is even greater.

The reason why more women seem to tear their ACL during ovulation is still a mystery to researchers. More studies will have to be done to determine why more tears occur during ovulation other than the two other stages, Spindler said.