Experts Note Increase in ACL Injuries Among Female Athletes

Published: July 24, 2023

LANSING, MI – As the FIFA Women’s World Cup gets underway, some of the biggest names in women’s soccer are sidelined with ACL injuries, reflecting what’s going on all over sports, say the highly skilled Sparrow orthopedic surgeons.

“As more and more kids get into athletics, the rate of ACL (Anterior Cruciate Ligament) tears has gone up over time, especially in young women,” said Michael Vaccariello, M.D., of Sparrow Medical Group Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Ionia. 

The ACL is attached in the knee to the thigh and shin bone. For athletes, it is crucial for pivoting, sprinting, and for landing. For those who suffer a tear, the six-to-12-month grueling recovery process can be devastating.

Some ACL tears come from direct contact with an opponent, but most are non-contact injuries due to sudden movements, deceleration, or jump landings. Studies have shown that women are six to eight times more likely to tear their ACL than men in sports like soccer or basketball where violent change in speeds and directions take place.

Michael Shingles, D.O., serves as Sparrow Health System’s Sports Medicine Medical Director and has performed over 3,000 ACL reconstructions on high school, collegiate, and professional athletes over his 23-year career. 

“There is some disagreement regarding what is contributing to female athletes having an increased risk of suffering an ACL injury and, most likely, it’s a combination of many of these factors,” Dr. Shingles said.

In Spring 2022, severe ACL injuries sidelined former Ionia High School soccer stars Valentina Sanchez-Sosa and Alixzandra Vasquez

“I didn't feel anything at all until we got on the bus, and it started hurting just a little bit. But by the time I got home, I could not straighten my leg at all. I had never felt that much pain,” Sanches-Sosa said.

Vasquez underwent surgery, and with the help of an innovative Return-to-Play program through Sparrow Medical Group Orthopedics and Sports Medicine Ionia, both were able to return to the field for their senior year. 

Dr. Shingles says having a simple warm-up or injury prevention program in place can have a positive impact. Sparrow has an ACL prevention class for athletes that runs twice a week at the Sparrow Michigan Athletic Club in East Lansing. Many of Sparrow’s athletic trainers are also trained in these prevention programs and teach jumping and landing techniques to students. 

To learn more about Sparrow’s ACL return to sport training program, visit Sparrow.Org/SportsMedicine.


Sparrow is Mid-Michigan’s premier health care organization that includes hospitals in Lansing, Charlotte, St. Johns, Ionia and Carson City as well as Sparrow Care Network, Sparrow Medical Group, the Michigan Athletic Club, and AL!VE. Sparrow is part of University of Michigan Health System. Through the dedication of our 10,000 caregivers, Sparrow pursues a vision to be nationally recognized as a leader in quality and Patient experience. For more information, visit