First she heard the pop, then she felt the pain. Sixteen-year-old Lindsey Robinson tore the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, in her knee during the last game of the 2005 soccer season. She's been sidelined ever since.
"I was rolling on the ground," Lindsey says. "I couldn't feel the bottom half of my knee. It freaked me out."
Lindsey's story is becoming more common. Several of her teammates have torn the same knee ligament. "We often compare scars during practice," Lindsey says with a laugh. (Watch how more girls are being sidelined Video )
An estimated 150,000 Americans suffer ACL injuries each year in the United States. A growing number of them are female athletes.
Orthopedic surgeon John Xerogeanes (pronounced Zer ROY ans) says girls are four to eight times more likely than boys to injure the ACL. Last year, he recalls, "I reconstructed ACLs for just four male high school soccer players, compared to 25 girls." He expects to see more young female athletes on the operating table.
"We know that there is a huge increase in ACL injuries when you compare female athletes to male athletes," says Dr. Xerogeanes, who is the head of sports medicine at the Emory Orthopaedic and Spine Center in Atlanta, Georgia. "We've looked at a million different things in terms of size of the pelvis, angulation of the knees, hormones and the way girls fire their muscles when they land. We're not exactly sure why this happens."
Twenty years ago, injuries like Lindsey's would be career-ending, but thanks to advances in arthroscopic surgery and specialized physical therapy, doctors are able to get the majority of athletes back to the same level of playing.