The Female Athlete Injury Epidemic
Something you probably already know is that ACL injuries, other knee injuries, and ankle sprains in female athletes are on the rise.
SCARY numbers of girls going through this.
Even the most prepared. There are many that even proper training, nutrition, and preparation cannot defend against.
However, doing all you can to ensure a healthy, bullet-proof athlete is the only thing you can control. I believe this article is going to help you the parent to understand why ladies sustain more injuries to the knee, and how to avoid the avoidable ones.
1) Anatomical Makeup
The Q-Angle is the relationship between the hips and knees. It is more pronounced in females because their hips are design to be child-bearing.
Unfortunately, this angle from the hip to the knee puts girls at much higher risk for tearing their ACL and having other knee injuries.
But, fear not...there are solutions and injury prevention modalities your daughter will learn below.
2) Flexibility and Mobility
In a lot of ways, girls are more flexible than guys. It is a good thing for showing off how high they can kick their leg and for splits and cartwheels, but a bad thing for injury risk.
Many girls have hyper-mobile knees for example, which gives them the ability to hyperextend their knees. Again, not a good thing when it comes to jumping (I.E. basketball players) or even accelerating from a stopped position (I.E. a lacrosse player attacking a ball after the draw).
Again, there are viable solutions every female athlete can do to strengthen the knees and counteract some of the unnecessary mobilities and flexibilities they have.
3) Hormonal Changes
Research shows that the hormonal changes due to a female's menstrual cycle can put them at a higher risk of injury. This is unavoidable, but important for me to add in as I wanted this to be a thorough explanation the “Why” behind female ACL injuries.
Now you know why, and you are asking yourself, “How can I give my daughter the best chance of AVOIDING the season and possible career ending ACL Tear?”
There are 5 exercises every female athlete should be doing year round to keep their knees resilient and injury-free. Most of them they can do on their own with little to no equipment.
1 - Clam Shell
This exercise will strengthen the glutes big time, which are the top muscles that stop the knee from caving in. The motion works directly against the inward force that causes ACL injuries.
2 - Double Leg Bridge w/mini band
This exercise has multiple benefits. It is going to make your daughter a lot faster, plus it will strengthen hamstrings AND glutes to further stabilize knee and hips.
3 - Single Leg Step Behind
This one looks 10X easier than it is. To truly go all the way down and up, without the knee caving in and without pushing off the bottom pad, requires a ton of strength from the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. This one builds off the previous two.
4 - Hex Bar Deadlift- 2-3 sets of 5-7 reps in-season
The hex bar allows athletes to achieve the optimal deadlift position without putting their lower back at risk (opposed to a barbell deadlift). This exercise not only reinforces all of the muscles and movements from above, but it is a total body exercise that also incorporates a lot of upper body. Highly effective for performance and ACL prevention when done correctly.
5 - Mini Band Side Steps- 2-3 sets of 10 reps in-season
This one works the athlete in movement. Most ACL injuries come from cutting and changing direction. By doing the stationary side steps first, you are priming the body to withstand the knee from diving in when you go to plant and cut.
6 - Single leg box jump stick*
This is the highest level of difficulty of the six exercises, which means it is also the most effective and beneficial when done correctly. You will want to build up to this one, starting out with double leg jumps and landings before progressing to single leg. A female athletes ability to decelerate and keep the knee from wiggling is KEY to preventing ACL injury.
Now that your daughter has the knowledge and exercises in her repertoire, she needs to execute.
Your daughter can do a few of these exercises on her own with zero equipment. She just needs to make sure she is doing this correctly and feeling it in the right places.
The other exercises she will likely need to go to a performance training specialist who has knowledge of her sport, female athlete biomechanics, and ACL prevention training.
What I have found is that most middle and high school students, even when they know “what” to do and “how” to do it, they rarely stick to it and do it diligently and consistently. That is where the all-powerful accountability of a coach comes in.
Reply to this email or give me a call at 240-341-2921 if you would like our help bullet-proofing your daughter’s knees. Injury prevention precedes peak performance.
Dedicated to your athlete’s success,
P.S. We know it is hard to find the time. But honestly, you cannot afford NOT to find the time. Some knee injuries are 12 month recovery time. The psychological effect of an ACL injury is even worse. Let's work together to prioritize their health. Many athletes are playing like pros but NOT recovering like pros.