Rouse Awards – Annabel Worth researches knee injuries to female athletes
11 Nov 2019
Annabel Worth (Upper Sixth) collected the Rouse Award for her research into the question ‘To what extent is menstrual cycle phase and resulting oestrogen levels a significant risk factor for non-contact ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries in female athletes?’
As a talented young sportswoman herself – Annabel is a member of the British Rowing World Class Start programme – she felt it would be intriguing to research the potential link to knee problems further.
She said: “The potential link between menstrual cycle phase and knee injuries is a really current area of research. However, the research that’s been done is quite inconsistent, so I thought it would be interesting to sift through it and see what the general opinions were and where we need to go from here in terms of improving what we have to help female athletes.”
Annabel explained that much of the research looks into female ACL injuries suffered in sports such as football, basketball and handball, which involve a lot of jumping and dynamic changes of direction.
She said “There does seem to be some evidence that oestrogen affects the mechanical properties of the ligament. From a theoretical point of view, it would make sense if that’s what was going on as it’s said athletes have a higher turnover of collagen (the predominant protein in ligaments), which oestrogen would affect the production of.
“However, I’m not totally convinced by it. I think socio-economic factors are also a major issue. Particularly where women and older girls weren’t playing sport from a young age due to limited opportunity, they may then not be as strong or stable, which might make them more likely to get injured.”
Annabel believes it is an area where more study is needed, adding that she feels there is still a taboo around the subject of the menstrual cycle in general.
She said: “It would be good to see more research being done in this area. My sports coach is very aware of the issues and I think it’s a significant factor in the training of female athletes today.”