Oral contraceptives protective against ligament injury in young women

Young women who are at risk of an anterior cruciate ligament tear may benefit from the protective effects conferred by taking oral contraceptive pills, research has suggested.

ACL tear CT scan SPL19

Oral contraceptive pills (OCPs) may be protective against anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears in women, particularly in 15–19 year olds, a study has shown[1]

The researchers looked at data on 82,874 female patients aged 15–49 years who experienced an ACL tear while taking OCPs for at least one year, compared with an equal number of matched patients with an ACL tear who were not taking OCPs.

They found that 0.56% of people using OCPs required surgical reconstruction compared with 0.69% of those not using OCPs, equivalent to an 18% reduced risk. When stratified by age, OCPs had a protective effect against ACL reconstruction in people aged 15–19 years, but not in age groups above 20 years.

In 15–19-year-olds taking OCPs, there was a 63% reduction in tears, compared to the non-OCP group.

The researchers said that other smaller studies had found similar results and that ongoing randomised trials could help to provide further clinical evidence.

“While clinical evidence is limited, there should be consideration for OCP usage in elite high school and college-aged athletes, especially those who are at risk of ACL tear,” they concluded in The Physician and Sportsmedicine (1 April 2019).


[1] DeFroda S, Bokshan S, Worobey S et al. Oral contraceptives provide protection against anterior cruciate ligament tears: a national database study of 165,748 female patients. Phys Sportsmed 2019. doi: 10.1080/00913847.2019.1600334

Last updated
Clinical Pharmacist, CP, June 2019, Vol 11, No 6;11(6):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206578

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