knee injury

Nottingham researcher awarded for research into gender disparity in ACL injury

Friday, 04 August 2023

A Nottingham social scientist has been awarded, alongside their colleagues, two prizes from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis (IMHA) for research published on how societal factors affect knee injury in female athletes. 

Girls and women are approximately three to six times more likely to suffer an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury, which can be career-ending for athletes and have life-long implications for physical activity participation.

Dr Stephanie Coen, from the School of Geography, conducted the research with Dr Joanne Parsons from the University of Manitoba and Dr Sheree Bekker from the University of Bath. Their gendered environmental approach to ACL injury was published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in March 2021. The researchers argued that gendered features of sport environments (e.g., social norms and relations, material inequities) may play a significant role in the disparity in ACL injury rates between women and men.

The trio applied for applied for CIHR-IMHA Inclusive Research Excellence Prizes in two out of five categories – research impact and team science – and won both, valued at CAD $25,000 each.

The team said that embedding gender in the study of ACL injury will heighten the awareness of possible influences outside of traditional biological elements.

Dr Stephanie Coen said of the research: “What’s really exciting is that it feels like we are shifting a paradigm in real time. The take up of our gendered environmental approach--not only by academics--but by sports organisations, athletes, and the public more widely has exceeded our wildest expectations.

“The conversation has moved beyond biology, to looking upstream at the social and material factors that may set up the conditions for women's and girls’ elevated ACL injury risk. These environmental features are things we can intervene in to make a meaningful difference for reducing injury risk in girls and women.

Stephanie Coen
Receiving these prizes for research impact and team science is a great affirmation of the meaningful difference our work is already making.”
Dr Stephanie Coen, School of Geography

The research has since been used by sports organisations in Australia and the UK.

Dr Parsons added: “To recognize that this is an important area of research is huge because, up until this point, sports injuries and ACL injuries in particular have been approached very much from a biological or physiological perspective. But now our ideas are being talked about everywhere. We don’t even get referenced as much as we used to because it’s now being taken as fact, which is a great thing.”

The funding will be used by the team to help the team conduct additional research and collect evidence to further support their model.

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More information is available from Dr Stephanie Coen at 

Faith Pring - Media Relations Manager
Phone: 0115 748 4411
Location: University of Nottingham, University Park

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