In the U.S. 56% of high school students play sports of some type, reported in Austin Family magazine. The participation rate among girls has seen the highest growth in the last decade and is part of the reason ACL injuries have escalated quickly among young female athletes. However, there are some body and strength differences that put girls more at risk for injury.
In his interview with Austin Family, Dr. Randall Schultz, orthopedic surgeon with Texas Orthopedics, says that the running, jumping, stopping and starting can put girls’ knees at greater risk of injury.
“We know that high velocity sports are the ones that really put them at risk (for knee injury), so soccer is a big one, basketball as well and probably to a lesser degree volleyball and softball.”
Differences in body build and strength change the way girls land on their feet, compared to boys. Here are three examples:
1. Girls use their quads more. Girls’ quadriceps (Muscle group in the top of the thing) is the dominant, or strongest, muscle in the leg. This means that girls don’t use their hamstrings or their knees as much when they land or change direction during sports. Males, on the other hand, have a tendency to use their hamstrings.
2. Girls have a dominant leg. In girls one leg tends to be strong than the other leg, while in boys, both legs usually have the same strength. This can cause girls to be off balance when they land and set them up for an ACL injury.
3. Girls often have less core strength. This makes it harder for girls to have control over their bodies during physical activity.
What can parents do to prevent injury? Incorporate more neuromuscular training into a young athlete’s preparation. Therapist can work the individual to gauge their risk and then develop a program to reduce that risk.
“A lot of it comes down to the position of the foot relative to the knee, and then the ability to have the strength to control and slow down a rapid deceleration or a quick change in direction,” explains Dr. Schultz.
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