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PostHeaderIcon The Easy Way Teen Girls Can Prevent Injuries

The Easy Way Girls Can Prevent Injuries

Teen girls have a far greater propensity than boys to suffer serious ankle and knee injuries – it’s a fact that has been known for years . This week, a study has shown there is a way to significantly reduce the likelihood of such injuries. And it’s easy to do.

Participating in a 15-20 minute dynamic warm-up before practice and games will decrease the risk of injuries , according to a study released this month in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. A dynamic neuromuscular workout includes exercises such as sprinting, jogging , jumping and shuffling drills, combined with simple stretching exercises. These drills raise the heart rate and blood flow of the individual while working on flexibility through stretching, agility and strength. But more importantly, they start out to train the body in how to do things effectively.

Dr. Cynthia LaBella, the medical director for the Institute of Sports Medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago who oversaw the study, said teaching young women athletes how to do the warm-up appropriately is key. “Repetitive training isn’t valuable if you’re doing it the wrong way,” she said. “The key is to get coaches trained to give the proper feedback.” LaBella said girls aquire a greater risk for ACL-type injuries during puberty. “Boys get a boost of testosterone, which gives them a boost of muscle mass ; girls don’t get the testosterone – but their bodies are still growing ,” she said. At that point, it becomes very important to teach them the proper techniques .

Brian Robinson, the lead athletic trainer at Glenbrook South High in Glenview, Ill., and the chair of the secondary school committee of the National Athletic Trainers Association, said he sees first-hand how a suitable warm-up can be beneficial . It’s just a matter of doing it properly. “A lot of people confuse warming up with stretching on its own,” he said. “You must warm-up and stretch, not stretch to warm-up.”

Convincing coaches to do this, however, is not as easy as it looks – in particular for the winter athletic season. With gym time often limited, coaches may not be eager to commit so much time to a warm up . Robinson said they ought to for a number of reasons. “The right warm-up will keep them from having these accidents, but it also will increase their strength and agility at the same time,” he said. “There are other benefits other than just protecting their ankles and knees .”

Robinson said it’s never too early to start such a warm-up. In fact, he said, the sooner you do it, the less difficult it will be to continue it . “If you can get this ingrained at a young age, they are more likely to stick with it in junior high, high school, college and throughout their lifetime ,” he said. The study, the Effect of Neuromuscular Warm-up on Injuries in Female Soccer and Basketball Athletes in Urban Public High Schools, began in 2006 using 95 girls basketball and soccer coaches of varsity, junior varsity, freshman and sophomore teams in Chicago area public high schools.

LaBella, who also works as an associate professor of pediatrics at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, said research of this nature had been done previously with elite athletes. Her mission was to find out if such warm-ups can work at any levels . She was pleased to see they could. “We had a girl in the study tell us that she never thought about landing; she said, ‘I just come down,'” LaBella related. “Now she says, ‘I understand the landing portion is something I need to learn to do properly.'” If she masters it, her probabilities for injury will go down .

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