Women's Injuries in Soccer
Oct 6, 2021
A sprained ankle, a torn ACL or a hyperextended knee is not only painful, but anxiety inducing and unfairly more common in women. You’ve probably experienced the pain and frustration of a leg injury, whether it happened to you or a teammate. You might feel like retired Chelsea star, Claire Rafferty, who suffered ACL injuries and said she felt like she was “doing something wrong” or “not training hard enough”.
You’re not to blame though - the Q-angle is, and it’s an anatomical difference that makes women more prone to leg injuries in soccer. The good news is that you can protect yourself against your natural q-angle and the injuries it may lead to.
The Q-Angle: Differences Between Genders & Women’s Injury Risk
The Q-Angle isn’t something you hear about in daily conversation, so naturally, you’re probably wondering what it is and how it affects you.
It’s full name is the quadriceps angle (hence the “Q”) and it refers to the angle formed between the quadricep muscles (quads) and the patella tendon (knee joint). Doctors measure the q-angle by drawing two lines, one that connects to the anterior superior iliac spine and another to the tibial tubercle, forming an inverted triangle.
The wider an athlete’s q-angle is, the greater the risk of injury. Women, by nature, carry wider q-angles than men because they have wider hips: women typically have a q-angle measuring 17 degrees, while men typically measure at 12 degrees. Of course, measurements do vary. Nevertheless, wider q-angles put more strain on the knees, causing them to point out and move the wrong way, and it’s the reason why women are more likely to sustain certain leg injuries.
You can’t change your q-angle. However, you can strengthen your leg muscles and stabilize your joints to reduce injury risk. Fortunately, regular conditioning and protective gear can provide that strength and stability so a wider q-angle doesn’t affect you as much. If you’re working with conditioning coaches who have a background in kinesiology, you can even have your q-angle measured to determine how great your risk of injury is.
Those measurements can help your coaches develop a personalized conditioning routine that helps you work with your unique angles.
Finding Your Angle: Injury Prevention for Women Soccer Players
It’s fair to assume that warm-ups, soccer drills and weight training make up a significant portion of your training regimen. But for the sake of counteracting q-angle injuries, you might need to mix up your routine a bit.
The reality is that a lot of the training programs in soccer don’t take differences between male and female anatomy into account. So it’s easy for women to train incorrectly or excessively, and increase their injury risk.
As we mentioned earlier, strength and stability protect you against leg injuries that wider q-angles lead to. First off, you want to stabilize your joints and improve your proprioception (your sense of where your body is in space).
Exercises for Joint Stability & Strength
- Leg raises
- Ball/wall squats
- Lateral walks
- Hamstring curls (seated or standing)
- FIFA 11+ neuromuscular exercises
Second, pick soccer protective gear and other equipment that will keep your joints stable and reduce the likelihood of muscle injuries.
Equipment for Joint Stability & Strength
- Knee tape
- Custom foot orthotics
- Traction insoles (such as our Storelli SpeedGrip insoles)
- Leg guards (for ankle protection and stability)
- Padded leggings (for leg protection and cushioning against hard impact)
Minding Your Ps & Qs
Being that player who rarely missed games due to a leg injury (or any injury) is possible, provided you know how to prevent them.
You can avoid some of the more troubling leg injuries by understanding your own q-angle and knowing how it can raise your risk of getting hurt. More importantly, you’ll gain strength and stability using the right exercises and soccer protective gear.
Prevention against q-angle injuries will take the fear out of leg injuries and keep you from burning out prematurely.
Need protective equipment for the lower body? Browse through our line of women’s soccer protective gear to find your needs.