A new study has looked at the incidence of serious knee problems

Female athletes are known to be 1.5 to two times more likely than their male counterparts to injure their anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, that connects the top and bottom portions of the knee.

It’s an injury that can be career-limiting and has been linked to life-long after effects including knee instability, altered walking gait and early onset arthritis.

Previous findings suggest the higher rate of female ACL problems is linked to levels of the hormone oestrogen weakening the ligament and making the knee joint lax.

It’s been shown, for example, that women suffer more knee injuries during the times of their menstrual cycle when oestrogen levels are at their highest.

In a new study, researchers from The University of Texas found that taking the birth control pill, designed to stabilise oestrogen levels, led to a decrease in the incidence of serious knee injuries. Indeed, young women (aged 15-19 years) with the highest rate of ACL problems were 22% less likely to be using the birth control pill than non-injured women of the same age.

“Birth control pills help maintain lower and more consistent levels of oestrogen, which may prevent periodic ACL weakness,” said the lead author of the study, published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, Dr Aaron Gray.

He added: “Young athletes currently use birth control pills for various reasons including more predictable cycles and lighter periods. Injury risk reduction could potentially be added to that list with further, prospective investigations.”

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