I’ve seen way too many scars on the knees of our young female athletes recently.
Sometimes these injuries are just plain bad luck. Injuries happen as a by-product of sport. We have to accept that.
What we don’t have to accept is whether our athletes are fully, physically, and appropriately prepared for the demands of their sport.
Proper physical preparation is the only defense we have against ACL injuries or any injury for that matter.
Young female athletes that participate in basketball or soccer are 3.5 times (basketball) and 2.8 times (soccer) more likely to suffer an ACL tear than their male counterparts. (source: J Orthop. 2016 Jun; 13(2): A1–A4)
Just playing their sport or playing their sport over multiple seasons within the same year is insufficient preparation.
I applaud sports coaches for their efforts in their attempts to try to prepare their athletes, but while masters of skills and tactics of their sport, they are not specialists in regard to the physical preparation of an athlete. They don’t have time to become biomechanical specialists nor study the physiological needs of athletes in depth.
They don’t have sufficient time to devote to the individual needs of each athlete and lack the resources to address specifics.
As our sports systems in schools and clubs have evolved, we have moved toward an emphasis on the specialization of a sport. In doing so, the physical preparation of our female athletes has been underappreciated and inadequately applied.
Almost every day, I talk with the concerned parents of young, injured athletes who are looking for answers to how to protect their children from these injuries recurring. Female soccer players are more likely to reinjure their ACL than males, and the higher risk group is less than 19 years of age.
There is so much confusing information and so many opinions as to what is best for your young athlete.
Let me offer you some generic advice.
Give your daughter an off-season to physically prepare for her sport.
Improving physiology and physical preparation (strength, power, speed, agility, core strength, balance, explosiveness, coordination) places physical demands on her body. Every female athlete has limited resources to grow and develop. An off-season expands these resources and develops physical abilities that increase resistance to injury.
If you can’t create an off-season, fill in the gaps.
There are gaps in the physical capabilities of endurance, speed, strength, and coordination that the sport itself or limited attention to strength and condititioning can address. The challenge is identifying those gaps and understanding what to do about them.
The high school strength and conditioning programs do a great job for many of their athletes in filling these gaps. Unfortunately, there are too many athletes and not enough strength and conditioning coaches to meet the needs and give the required attention to each athlete to maximize the benefits of their programs. Sport coaches do their best as well, but athletes still fall through the cracks.
Higher risk athletes such as those with physical deficits or a history of a previous knee injury may need more specific interventions and exercise programs to successfully compete and remain healthy.
How do you identify the specific needs of your young, female athlete?
You test and measure and compare. From this, you determine your young athlete’s needs. Then it’s just a matter of filling the gaps.
I’m declaring November IFAST Physical Therapy ACL Prevention Month.
Throughout the month of November, we’ll evaluate your daughter at no charge. We’ll help you determine what gaps need to be addressed in her physical preparation and answer any questions you may have to help keep her healthy throughout her season.
Call IFAST at 317-578-0998 or email us at [email protected] to schedule an appointment.