We are hearing about more and more knee injuries in teen girls. We wanted to get to the root of the problem since staying active and fit during your tweens and teens is super-important for long-term health. We wanted to know if teen girls could prevent knee injuries. Every year approximately 20,000 high school girls suffer a serious sports-related knee injuries – a number six times higher than the boys! Don’t let yourself become a statistic: know the facts about knee injuries and take these steps to prevent the “pop.” Thanks to our friends at GirlsGoneSporty for bringing us the latest in research and techniques to help you understand why girls are at risk of injury... and how to prevent injuries. Check out their website for more great health articles!
When injuries occur
You may be surprised to learn that most of the serious knee injuries suffered during sports take place without any contact from another player. In fact, injuries are most likely to occur during simple movements like landing a jump, switching directions, pivoting, or stopping quickly. Researchers have spent lots of time and energy trying to figure out why these movements seem to be more “dangerous” for girls than boys. As it turns out, there are lots of factors at play – most of which boil down to simple anatomy and physiology.
Why injuries happen
You see, the risk for knee injury in teenage girls increases at the onset of puberty and continues through high school. What’s to blame? Good ol’ puberty! Here are a few of the top puberty-inspired knee injury culprits:
- Noticed your hips widening? The angle between your hip and knee is also widening, placing more stress on your knee joint.
- Dealing with hormone surges? As your hormones change during your menstrual cycle, your joint laxity changes as well. Lax joints are instable joints, which can increase injury risk.
- Shoot up like a weed? Growing taller is great, but extra height changes your center of gravity, making balance and coordination more difficult. Poor balance results in greater trunk movement as you stop, pivot, land and slide. When your upper body sways off-balance during quick, athletic movements, your lower body has to compensate for the imbalance, which can place great strain on your knees.
Unfortunately, there’s not much you can do to prevent your hips from widening or your hormones from surging (and you wouldn’t really want that, anyway!), but there are steps you can take to improve your balance, strength and stability. Here are a few suggestions:
- Improve your core strength! As you grow it’s very important that you improve the strength of your abs, hips and back so that you’re able to prevent your upper body from swaying off-balance during activity. Try adding a 10 or 15 minute core exercise routine to your workout a few times each week, and don’t just do sit ups! Try seated, standing, and twisting exercises that require you to use more than just your abs. For instance, do medicine ball twists or medicine ball wood chops to engage your hips, back and obliques.
- Work out those legs! The stronger your quads, hamstrings and calves, the more they’ll support your knees and help absorb the shock from unexpected movements. Start with squats and lunges, watching yourself in a mirror to make sure you’re using correct form. It’s extremely important that you don’t allow your knees to collapse inward as you do these exercises, so if you see it happening, slow down and concentrate on keeping your hips, knees and ankles aligned throughout the motion.
- Focus on balance! Start incorporating a few balance exercises into your daily routine. Ask your coach how to do one-legged exercises or try doing BOSU Ball squats. Activities like Pilates and yoga also focus on balance and core strength, so consider taking a class once or twice a week. As you continue to balance train, you’ll teach your body to find its center of gravity in an unstable environment, ultimately enabling you to “catch yourself” when quick athletic movements throw you off balance.
- Learn to jump! You’ve been jumping and landing since you were little, but did you know there’s a “right” way to do it? Check out this video to learn the ins-and-outs of proper landing form:
You can apply proper landing techniques, like keeping your torso centered between your hips and keeping your joints “soft,” to a variety of fast movements like sliding, changing direction and pivoting, Mastering this skill will put you well on your way to preventing knee injuries!