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Females Are Prone to Suffer Injuries

Sarah Zajac

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Two pops and crack is all that I heard when I fell to the ground at soccer practice. I knew deep down inside that something was very wrong. Everyone continued to tell me that I probably had just sprained my knee, but I knew that it was not fully intact.

Unfortunately, that practice I became one of the 90,000 female athletes to tear my ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament.

The ACL is an important ligament that connects the thigh bone to the shin bone and has the responsibility of stabilizing the knee with the help of the posterior cruciate ligament. These two ligaments work together to prevent the knee from bending too far backwards and too far forwards.

Presentation alum and current Santa Clara student, Stephanie Sorg, holds a position on the soccer team at her college, but cannot participate due to torn ligaments occurring about six months ago.

“I knew something was wrong but I didn’t know the extent of it. I’ve hyper-extended my knee before and so I thought it was just the tendon being stretched. The first thought that went through my head was the pain associated with bending your leg backwards; it’s probably one of the worst feelings in the world.”

According to researchers, women suffer tearing of ligaments four to six times more than male athletes.

Tim Hewitt of Cincinnati’s Children’s Hospital conducted a study that proved that the difference in results of puberty between females and males play a strong role in injury probability.

Hewitt states that boys get a big power burst after going through puberty, intensifying all of their muscles, while girls’ power bursts after puberty mostly concentrate on their frontal leg muscles, rather than the front and back muscles.

Hopefully it comes as no surprise that men have a different anatomical makeup than women. These differences in body type are suspected to be the culprits behind the injury rate in female athletes.

Presentation High School’s athletic Trainer, Julia Murphy, told The Voice that she sees these types of injuries every year! “It is safe to say that I see this type of injury at least once each season (Fall, Winter, Spring); and sometimes this type of injury occurs multiple times in each season.”

A narrower femoral notch, or the space below the femur in which the ACL runs through, causes the “shearing” effect on the ACL. In men, the femoral notch is not quite as narrow, giving the ACL more room.

Researchers tend to accuse the Q-angle in females to be the reasoning for injury. The Q-angle is the measure of the angle between the quadriceps and the knee cap.

After going through puberty, women tend to have wider hips for biological reasons, causing a greater Q-angle that predisposes them to stress on the muscles, usually resulting in a torn ligament if performing a movement incorrectly.

Not only are men fortunate enough to have the natural body structure to prevent these types of injuries, but they also lack the hormonal levels of estrogen and progesterone that women possess.

It is obvious that young women, especially those in high school and college, have their ups and downs with their hormones due to puberty. But is it really possible for hormone level to affect injury rates?

It has been discovered that when hormone levels are frequently changing the ACL becomes more lax than normal, increasing the risk for injury.

Often times, women injure their ACLs or other ligaments in the knee by committing an act of abrupt change in direction, incorrectly planting their foot, or even landing improperly after a jump.

Sorg explains that she is one of the many female athletes that have experienced this incorrect movement. “In a soccer game in Vegas I went to clear the ball and while in the air my knee hyper-extended. I heard a pop and then landed weird.”

Though it does not seem fair that our body types are not necessarily built for the intense level that sports are today, there are ways to strengthen knees and prevent ligament injuries.

Coaches have been picking up on the statistics of injuries in women athletes, and many have begun to incorporate neuromuscular training programs to teach the muscles to better stabilize the joints.

Murphy’s expertise agrees with the need for specialized conditioning. “Proper conditioning is key! No matter which sport one does, all athletes need a physical program that encompasses cardio, strength training, and flexibility; it’s the triad to injury prevention.”

These training programs include exercises for balance, power, jumping, and agility. There are exercises that you can do to prevent injuries, such as torn ligaments. About two or three times a week try incorporating six simple activities into your daily lives.

It is important that those who have torn ligaments do not try and return to sports too quickly in order to prevent re-tearing these ligaments. Sorg states that she will “take as much time as needed to heal completely,” and will “build up [her] muscles as much as possible so that everything is strong when [she] steps back out on to the field”.

For physical activities, begin with a warm up followed by a lot of stretching. Continue with strengthening, which includes walking lunges and toe raises, and move on to plyometrics. Plyometrics include a lot of hopping, such as lateral hops over a cone and forward/backward hops over a cone.

Each of these exercises takes about 10 minutes and then you can progress to agility drills. When doing this type of drill for about 15 minutes, try to include diagonal runs and bounding runs to strengthen and increase power and speed. Finally, make sure that you cool down with ab crunches and a lot of stretching. A great, useful stretch includes the sitting down butterfly stretch.



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Females Are Prone to Suffer Injuries