Taking Care of Female Athletes: June 17, 2012

Over the past two decades, the number of female athletes has risen dramatically and so has the number of sports-related injuries. 

Giving new meaning to the phrase ‘lady-like,’ female jocks are tearing it up on the sports field and in many cases tearing their bodies up in the process. 

“There’s lots of reasons why we think female athletes are more susceptible to ACL injuries,” says Dr. Francesca Schwartz, an orthopedic surgeon on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

Studies show in high-energy sports like soccer, basketball and cheerleading, women are ten times more likely to injure their ACL than men. 

“The ACL is the anterior crucial ligament. It’s one of the stabilizing ligaments in the middle of the knee. It prevents the shinbone from coming forward as you’re pivoting, turning,” says Dr. Schwartz.

There are several theories on the lady ligament tears.  Among them are anatomical differences. 

“The way our bodies are designed, women’s hips may be a little bit wider which puts a little bit different stress across the knee. And sometimes hormonal changes may have a role in ACL tearing in the female athlete,” says Dr. Schwartz.

What is undisputed is that neuromuscular training lowers the risk of injury. Teaching girls how to jump, land and fall is becoming more common in practice. The earlier coaches start building a strong foundation, the better.

“There is a ton of research about jump training and proprioceptive training.  Basically they’re working on the position of their knee and feet when they land. Especially in basketball and sports like that, it’s the landing that makes them susceptible to the injury,” says Dr. Schwartz.

It’s all about ‘girl power’ and teaching female athletes how to stay strong.