A new study suggests that female athletes might be able to avoid serious knee injuries by taking the pill.

According to a Brown University study, which analyzed 165,000 female athletes in the United States, taking the oral contraceptive significantly reduced the likelihood that a female athlete would suffer knee injuries.

The protective effect of the drug was particularly noticeable in teenage women.

The study focused primarily on ACL injuries, and authors of the study believe lower and more stable hormone levels enabled by the pill keep the ligament firmer. 

According to a report from The Telegraph, women are eight to ten times more likely to suffer ACL complaints compared to men, for a combination of hormonal and physiological reasons. About half of the women examined for the research were unable to return to athletic competition following an ACL tear.

A total of 465 women in the oral contraceptive group required surgical reconstruction of the ACL over the ten-year period of the study, compared to 569 in the control group. That means those women who took the pill were 18 percent less likely to damage their ACL.

However, female athletes aged 15 to 19 were 63 per cent less likely to get injured.

“It’s likely that oral contraceptives help maintain lower and more consistent levels of estrogen and progesterone, which may lead to periodic increase in laxity and subsequent risk of tear,” said Dr. Steven DeFroda who led the research.

Experts believe that approximately 40 percent of serious sporting injuries relate to the knee, with around 20,000 ACL injuries in the UK each year.

Andy Berg is Executive Editor of Athletic Business.