Q. Are female athletes more likely to be injured during training and competition than their male counterparts?
A. Yes. Historically, because most athletes were men, fitness programs were designed for male athletes. Over time, as more girls and women entered the competitive and non-competitive athletic arena, these routines were simply adopted as is. But as young female athletes grow, their anatomy becomes differently equipped to handle certain athletic movements. Simply doing what the boys do can lead to injury. What’s more, it’s setting these young women up for joint failure as they age.
Q. How do I have this conversation with my daughter, without making her feel that she’s somehow more delicate than her brother?
A. I have four girls of my own and I know this can be a hard conversation. Your daughter is a star athlete, make her the star of the conversation. Be sure to be inclusive.
Assure your daughter that she’s just as strong and capable as her brother, but different bodies create different movements. You can let your daughter know that she needs a special type of training, one that includes different workouts unique to her body and muscular anatomy.
Q. Which injuries are most common for young female athletes?
A. Girls are eight times more likely to suffer an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injury than boys – especially in sports that involve sudden stops and frequent changes in direction while running, like basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball. Girls tend to have more issues with their kneecaps staying in the proper place and gliding centrally within their grooves as they should. This could be caused by a naturally wider pelvis and therefore a larger Q angle, the angle the thigh makes with the lower leg. These anatomical forces more often force the kneecap out of its natural groove.
Weak inner thigh muscles called vastus medialis muscles could also be responsible for common injuries among women including, a dislocated kneecap, or a kneecap that floats towards the side of the leg when a person is bending or landing from a jump. The good news? This can be avoided with proper training and strengthening.
Q. As a parent, how can I help save my daughter from injury down the line?
A. Working with a coach or physical therapist who has the proper knowledge of injury prevention programs has proven very beneficial in decreasing knee injury rates in young female athletes. At Northern Westchester Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation program, physical therapists start by giving each patient a comprehensive biomechanical assessment. They then work on the foundations of stability, including range of motion, joint mobility, strength and flexibility. They progress towards dynamic control, including jumping, cutting, running and sports-specific movements and skills.
Q. Outside of physical therapy, what can we do at home to help protect her from injury?
A. Cross-training will help your daughter avoid injury. Jumps and modified squats will help her boost core strength. Strength training with weights will help her maintain bone density, stability and overall strength. And low-impact workouts on a stationary bike or elliptical help her build leg muscles while taking pressure off the joints.
Moms, do these joint-friendly workouts with your daughter! It will help both of you avoid injury and it could be a fun bonding experience. Summer is almost in full swing. Take a mother-daughter dip! Swimming is a great way to build all-over body strength and it’s easy on the joints at any age.
Learn More About Dr. Khabie
Co-Chief of Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
Co-Director, Orthopedic and Spine Institute
Director, Sports Medicine Section
Chief, Department of Surgery
Northern Westchester Hospital
Northern Westchester Hospital is a proud member of Northwell Health.
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