By Leslie Fossey
My daughter, Erica, played recreational and club soccer until she turned 13. She has loved both soccer and dance since she was a small child. But her last few years of soccer were problematic due to injuries, especially to her knee.
When she made the drill team in middle school, almost every night after practice she would have to ice her knee and take something for the pain. We made several trips to the orthopedist, who recommended rest for several weeks. Eventually, Erica was forced to make a decision about what to do because she was just tired of hurting from overuse. Would she be able to participate in multiple sports?
Now in my day, girls never had the sports-related opportunities their daughters and nieces now have because then sports were for boys. But things changed in 1972 when Title IX of the Civil Rights Act was extended to apply to extra-curricular opportunity. Since then, girls’ participation in sports has soared nearly 80 percent.
Dr. David Kummerfeld, the newest orthopedic surgeon at Azalea Orthopedics, says, “Now that girls have been as active in sports as boys there has been an increased frequency in sports-related injuries in female athletes, particularly knee injuries. This is likely due to the increased participation and popularity of female sports compared to the past.”
Some research indicates that girls are more prone to ankle sprains, as well as hip and back pain. And for all the justifiable attention paid to concussions among football players, females appear to be more prone to them in sports that the sexes play in common. A study last year by researchers at Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus reported that high-school girls who play basketball suffer concussions at three times the rate of boys, and that the rate for high-school girls who play soccer is about 1.5 times the rate for boys.
According to NCAA statistics, women who play soccer suffer concussions at nearly identical rates as male football players. The research indicates that it takes less force to cause a concussion in girls and young women, perhaps because they have smaller heads and weaker necks.
So what is the answer? Dr. Kummerfeld concludes it’s prevention, “The enforcement of plyometric and jump training for female athletes is key to injury reduction. Customized warm-ups of stretching, strengthening and balancing exercises. side-to-side shuttle runs, backward runs and walking lunges are critical, as well as forward, backward and lateral hops over a cone. Girls need to learn to ‘land softly’ or ‘like a spring.’ Research has shown that proper training and conditioning can reduce the risk of ACL injury, often by 30%.”
Women’s and girls’ bodies are different. Now that Erica is participating only in high school drill team her knee pain has calmed down a great deal. It does give her a little pain every once in a while but overall she is pretty pain-free. Her coach believes warm-ups and stretching are critical components for preparing her for her sport. As her mother, I agree wholeheartedly that it makes a difference.
Leslie Fossey is Marketing Director for Azalea Orthopedics.