Parents might think that boys get more sports injuries than girls, but, Surprise! The reverse is actually true. Girls and young women are more prone to anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, ankle sprains, and concussion than males playing the same sports. Lots of studies are ongoing to try and figure out why girls get more knee and ankle injuries. Here are some contributing factors that have been identified:
- The way that girls’ hips and legs are aligned. A wider hip affects how much neuromuscular control there is over the knees and ankles when rotating, landing, or reversing direction, putting knees at risk for ACL tears.
- Less developed hamstring muscles. At puberty, girls do not develop the strength from increased muscle mass that boys have at the same stage. Both boys and girls have testosterone, boys have more which influences how large their muscles are.
- Estrogen. Some research suggests that the female hormone estrogen weakens the anterior cruciate ligament enough to increase injury risk. One study found that women sustained more ACL injuries during the first part of their menstrual cycle when estrogen levels are highest.
Prevention steps include:
- Fitness and cross training. Train for overall strength and not just by playing your sport.
- Aim for symmetrical strength and flexibility – pay attention to your non-dominant side.
- Beef up the hamstrings! Lots of deep squats and don’t forget to stretch.
- Good nutrition and hydration. Not eating enough protein can cause fatigue and lead to injury.
I see a lot of girls in my practice with post-concussive syndrome. Mild to severe head trauma can occur when athletes collide with one another, with equipment, or when they “head” the ball in soccer. Girls’ longer, thinner necks and anatomical differences in how the cervical vertebrae attach to the skull make them more susceptible to a whiplash effect. Although head trauma is seen in girl’s field hockey and softball, soccer has the highest incidence. The Journal of Athletic Training reports that in the U.S. high school girls are 56 percent more likely than boys to suffer a concussion in sports that are played by both boys and girls. It could also be that girls are more willing to report head injuries than boys are, contributing to the difference in the numbers.
Possible symptoms of post-concussion syndrome:
- memory problems
- trouble concentrating
- sleeping problems
Even a mild concussion should be taken seriously. CT scans can reveal bleeding and severe injury, but any of the above symptoms mean there has been some trauma, and rest and recovery are needed.
Recovery: It may take months
When it comes to a concussion, the brain needs time to heal itself through rest, reduction in screen time and quiet. These are all things that an active teenager is not going to be interested in. Many times, they want to get right back out to the field, court or to their previous level of constant activity, but this can delay their complete recovery. As healthcare providers, we often need to step in and give the entire family permission to take a break for a few days, weeks or even longer so that the teen can recover completely.