Research Blog

ACL injuries in Female Skiers

woman skiing


A new study finds that females, but not males, show a higher risk of ACL injury in their nondominant leg while alpine skiing. 






A new study out of Austria found that female, but not male, alpine skiers show a significantly higher risk of ACL injury in their non-dominant leg (Leg Dominance Is a Risk Factor for Noncontact Anterior Cruciate Ligament Injuries in Female Recreational Skiers; 2012, Gerhard Rued, et al.).

Knee injuries account for a third of all reported skiing injuries and half of these knee injuries are due to an Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury. Disparities exist between genders. Female recreational skiers' ACL injury risk is three times higher than their male counterparts.  Females tend to be more one-leg dominant, suggesting a possible link between leg dominance and ACL injury risk.

The aforementioned study surveyed intermediate to expert recreational skiers suffering from ACL injury at an Austrian ski clinic. The skiers were all in good physical condition at the time of the accident. Female skiers suffered an ACL injury in their non-dominant leg 63% of the time. By comparison, only 45% of male skiers suffered ACL injuries in their non-dominant leg. 

The surveys gathered information on when the ACL injury occurred in the skiers.  Most left-leg ACL injuries occurred while making a right turn. During a right turn a majority of the weight is on the outer leg (the left leg in a right turn) as pressure is placed on the inner edge of the outside ski to sustain the turn. The authors proposed altering ski boot design so that less stress is placed on the knees while carving turns.

Interestingly, soccer players follow similar gender patterns in ACL injuries. One study found that 68% of ACL injuries in female soccer players occur in the nondominant leg (the favored support leg during a kick) compared with 26% of ACL injuries in males (Gender influences: the role of leg dominance in ACL injury among soccer players, 2010; Brophy R, et al.). The physiological reasons for the gender disparity in ACL injuries in both soccer players and alpine skiers remains unknown.

If you, or someone you know, suffered from an ACL injury while skiing or playing a sport let me know via email (contribute@exercisemed.org) or leave a comment.  

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