Spring is here and outdoor sports are back in full swing. Girls are kicking, running and jumping.
As we encourage our girls to pursue their passion for sports, we also need to help them prevent injuries that could wreck a season, or worse. Knee injuries fall into that category for young, female athletes. I spoke with Dr. Cynthia LaBella, who practices pediatric sports medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital, about girls and knee injuries.
What activities pose the greatest risk?
Dr. LaBella sees knee injuries in sports that involved the following: quick changes in direction (soccer), jumping and landing (basketball), contact and repetitive motion (running), and kicking (swimming).
Why are girls more inclined to knee injuries?
Dr. LaBella explained that neuromuscular control is different in girls than in boys. Boys have balanced knee support; girls tend to be more quadricep focused. Girls often prefer a dominant leg, which can lead to injuries in either leg as one is overused and the other weak. Girls rely on bones and ligaments for joint movement control rather than muscles, like boys do. Lastly, many girls have less core stability.
What can girls do to prevent knee injuries?
The good news, according to Dr. LaBella, is that girls can change their neuromuscular patterns through training. Programs, like PEP (prevent injuries and enhance performance) specifically target knee injury prevention. The key components of these programs include:
- Warm up: jogging, shuttle runs, backward running
- Stretching: calves, quads, hamstrings, inner thighs, hip flexors
- Strengthening: walking lunges, single leg calf raises, core exercises
- Plyometrics: double and single leg hops, vertical jumps
- Agility: diagonal running, bounding
- Feedback: training girls to do these exercises properly and thoroughly
Where can girls learn these exercises?
Dr. LaBella and Children’s Memorial Hospital offer KIPP (knee injury prevention program). KIPP’s summer program meets twice a week beginning in June. Coach training is also available by appointment. The KIPP website at childrensmemorial.org has more information about the program and the upcoming summer session.
While the risk of injury can never be totally eliminated, understanding the causes and taking steps to prevent injury will keep your strong, aggressive, determined gal healthy and safe.
For more information on the PEP program, go to smsmf.org/pep-program