A couple of years ago Brian McCormick wrote a piece entitled GIRLS SHOULDN’T PLAY BASKETBALL. McCormick’s point wasn’t ( as the title suggests ) that girls shouldn’t play basketball but, that those of us who work with developing female athletes have a responsibility to prepare them for the athletic demands of their games as well as the technical and tactical ones. We work on dribbling, passing and shooting and spend almost no time preparing them to move in ways that will not only improve their performance but keep them safe and less likely to suffer injuries. The same is true for any cutting and pivoting sport like soccer or lacrosse. Epidemiological studies have found that girls are 4-6 times more likely to suffer anterior cruciate ligament ( ACL ) injuries in those sports than boys. Those injuries can be devastating when they happen often requiring long and arduous rehab and reconditioning. They also have serious long term effects. Osteoarthritis occurs at 10 times the normal rate in ACL injured patients.
We can serve girls better. Another article on the Moms Team Website highlights a study by researchers at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital that found that the right kind of training done at the right time with the proper leadership and supervision can have a profound impact on reducing the occurrence of ACL injuries in teenage girls. The study concludes that integrative neuromuscular training done in pre-adolescence or early adolescence makes a significant difference. The researchers found that pre-adolescents and early adolescents showed a 72% injury risk reduction compared to 52% for late teens and older players. Effective programs were progressive in nature and included plyometric training, dynamic stabilization, and strength training. These programs were most effective when they took place over time. In one study players who did an NMT program for 3 months and then stopped returned to their pre-training pattern whereas girls who followed a program for 9 months still retained the new healthy patterns 3 months after stopping training.
Proper instruction was key as well. ” Age appropriate education and qualified instruction enhance successful integration of the critical components related to mastery of fundamental movements'” the authors wrote. In two studies where there was little or no “feedback driven instruction” there was no injury reduction effect from the training.
There are good programs out there and well trained coaches, teachers and physical therapists to help implement them. We can work together to implement this kind of training as a part of youth sports programs. 10 to 20 minutes at a practice before and during the season is an easy place to start to reduce the risk of injury and keep girls on the field or the court playing hard and performing at their best. A well designed athletic development program like the one we offer can provide even more. We can serve our girls better.