Sports Injuries Hit Girls Hardest

November 17, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
If you follow pro sports, you know that a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the most common injuries in the NBA and the NFL. Now, there are as many as a quarter of a million new ACL injuries every year in non-professional athletes, and more and more of those injured are kids. Young girls are at the highest risk.Fifteen-year-old Tori Andrews tore her ACL playing soccer.

"When I went to turn the top part of my knee, the top part of my leg and the bottom part of my leg did not feel connected," Andrews recalls. "So that's when I knew something was wrong."

Doctors say sports that involve sudden jumps and quick turns put stress on the ligament that works to stabilize the knee.

"For every male that tears an ACL, there's going to be five to eight females of the same age that tear their ACLs," David L. Marshall, M.D., the medical director for the Sports Medicine Program at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.

Researchers believe higher levels of estrogen make girls' ligaments more flexible than boys and more likely to tear. Wider hips also add to the problem.

"If you watch a girl land, when they land or they jump, their knees tend to go inward slightly where boys tend to keep their knees in front and on top of their feet," Dr. Marshall explained.

For girls like Andrews, specialized rehab and training now includes more than strengthening exercises. She'll also learn ways to jump and land to avoid injury.

"If we can prevent these injuries from happening in the first place, then everybody's happy," Julie Nellis, MPT, CSCS, a physical therapist at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, told Ivanhoe.

Experts say to prevent injuries always do the following: warm up before the game, hydrate to avoid cramping and injury, flex your knees and keep them parallel when jumping and landing, and if you feel a pop or buckling in your knee ? stop immediately!

With the right therapy and a little patience, Andrews hopes she'll be back on the field again soon. "I'm definitely hoping to play next year," she said.

The typical treatment for an ACL injury is surgery followed by rehab. ACL tears aren't the only injuries more common in girls. A recent study showed high school girls that play basketball suffer concussions at three-times the rate of boys. Girls are also more likely to suffer chronic knee pain and shin splints.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Harold King, M.B.A, A.T.C.L.
Orthopaedic Community Outreach
Children's Healthcare of Atlanta
Atlanta, GA
(404) 785-7570


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