Are We Doing Enough to Prevent Injuries for Young, Female Athletes?

Written by: Kristen Hawley, Clinic Director ProCare Huntingdon

• WHAT ARE THE STATISTICS? A young female athlete is 2 to 8 times more likely than young males to tear their ACL according to the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine. This injury can have major consequences for a female athlete that include 6-9 months of intense rehabilitation following surgery, delayed return to sport, difficult time returning to prior skill level and intensity, as well as most likely development of early onset knee osteoarthritis later in life.

• WHY FEMALES? The reasons for this statistic are not yet conclusive. However, a wide variety of hypothesis include body structure (wider hips, and smaller notch) to estrogen levels being high and leading to a lax ligament. The best hypothesis, in my opinion, and one variable that can possibly be altered concludes that females tend to cut, jump, land, and stop in such a way that may not absorb the force the landing well. It comes more naturally to males to land with their knees flexed. This injury is usually sustained when the knee is hyperextended or buckles inward.

• WHAT CAN WE DO? A report in the Journal of American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeries states “neuromuscular intervention protocols have been shown to reduce the rate of injury in girls and women”. This intervention requires close monitoring, atleast initially, from coaches and ATCs to ensure the drills are performed with proper technique. These programs include muscle strengthening (gluts, hamstrings, abductors), core strengthening, jumping and landing plyometric training, neuromuscular/balance training, and feedback/education on correct landing technique. Example of programs that are readily available online include the KIPP program.

• WHY AREN”T WE DOING IT? Coaches often feel very pressed for practice time and it’s very difficult to give up 15-20 minutes of practice time. It seems that only teams that have been highly affected by ACL injuries are willing to implement such a program. It is best implemented to girls before hitting puberty to prevent maladaptive patterns. It can be performed in place of a warm up and only needs to be performed 3 times a week for 15-20 minutes.

This issue is near and dear to my heart as I was a female athlete who suffered an ACL injury while playing basketball. Physical Therapy is an often necessary tool in treating injury. Stop to see me or any of ProCare’s Therapists or Athletic Training staff to learn how to PREVENT injury on the court, field or track. We are available during our posted clinic hours to help you OR your student athlete!

Kristen Hawley,
Clinic Director
ProCare Physical Therapy,
294 South Fourth Street
Huntingdon, PA 16652814.643.4151