Female athletes and joint-friendly fitness northern westchester hospital blog grade 6 electricity test

Did you know that female athletes are far more likely to be injured during training and competition than their male counterparts? That’s even more the case with younger female athletes. But while the trend these days is a one-size-fits-all training model for both genders, the reality is that to avoid injury, girls need training that’s specialized to their unique anatomy. Here, I’ll discuss why one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to athletic training and how you can encourage healthy habits for your daughter to save her from injury down the line. By Dr. Victor Khabie, Co-Chief of Orthopedics and Director of Sports Medicine at Northern Westchester Hospital (NWH)

Historically, because most athletes were men, fitness programs were designed for male athletes. Over time, as more girls and women entered the competitive and non-competitive athletic arena, these routines were simply adopted as is. But as young female athletes grow, their anatomy becomes differently equipped to handle certain athletic movements. Simply doing what the boys do can lead to injury. What’s more, it’s setting these young women up for joint failure as they age.

This can’t be overstated. However, I have four daughters of my own and girls need a different type of training, one that includes different workouts unique to their bodies and muscular anatomy. Different bodies create different movements. Specialized training for female athletes is necessary because, boys and girls run and jump differently.

Girls are eight times more likely to suffer an anterior crucial ligament (ACL) injury than boys – especially in sports that involve sudden stops and frequent changes in direction while running, like basketball, soccer, tennis, and volleyball, according to the National Institutes of Health. The ACL is the ligament that connects your thighbone to your shinbone and helps stabilize your knee joint. One reason for an increased incidence of ACL tears among females is that females have a naturally wider pelvis and therefore a larger Q angle, the angle the thigh makes with the lower leg. The larger this angle, the more stress on the knee and kneecap. A high Q angle can cause female athletes to land with their knees hyperextended and in a knock-kneed position, putting more stress on their ACL.

Girls tend to have more issues with their kneecaps staying in the proper place and gliding centrally within their grooves as they should. This is, again, because of anatomy. This could be caused by higher Q angles, which more often force the kneecap out of its natural groove. Weak inner thigh muscles called vastus medialis muscles could also be responsible for common injuries among women including, a dislocated kneecap, or a kneecap that floats towards the side of the leg when a person is bending or landing from a jump. The kneecap – especially in females – is like a toddler in time out. The toddler knows he should remain in time out, but can’t seem to stay put — leading to even more punishment! Like that troublesome toddler, when the knee continues to slip out of place, it increases the likelihood of more serious joint issues down the road. The good news: This can be avoided with proper training and strengthening.

Working with a coach or physical therapist who has the proper knowledge of injury prevention programs has proven very beneficial in decreasing knee injury rates in young female athletes. At Northern Westchester Hospital’s Outpatient Rehabilitation program, physical therapists start by giving each patient a comprehensive biomechanical assessment. They then work on the foundations of stability, including range of motion, joint mobility, strength and flexibility. They progress towards dynamic control, including jumping, cutting, running and sports-specific movements and skills.

In addition, cross-training helps prevent injuries. Jumps and modified squats boost your core strength. Strength training with weights helps you maintain bone density, stability and overall strength. And low-impact workouts on a stationary bike or elliptical help you build your leg muscles while taking pressure off the joints. Moms, do these joint-friendly workouts with your daughter. It will help both of you avoid injury and it could be a fun bonding experience.