Mmm. Intriguing title isn’t it? Can you think of one thing both young ladies may have in common? Of course your daughter and Malia are great kids, getting older, becoming teens, playing sports. But, aside from this, can you guess? No? Well, suprisingly, it is a high risk for knee injury during sports.
Last week, I was watching video of Malia and her family disembarking from a helicopter at The White House. As Malia was descending the stairs, her left knee caved in on each stair. This is called “medial deviation” and is a sure sign that Malia’s knees are not “prime time” ready.
As a strength and conditioning coach, and a high school sports coach, I see knees like this every day. Knees that cave in when athletes are jumping, running, stopping and starting, or even just going down stairs. The “caving in” puts excessive stress on the medial aspect of the knee, and more importantly, is an indicator of a risk for serious knee injury. Knee pain and injuries are an epidemic in adolescent girls. Women are 2-5 times more likely to have a knee injury, and often it is an ACL tear, a serious injury usually necessitating surgery. The reason for the heightened risk in women and young girls is not totally clear. Some researchers believe it is genetic and structural, others believe that hormones may play a role in the loosening of the knee joint. But, two things are clear from my viewpoint: young women are weaker and less conditioned than most young men their age, and young girls are playing too much of the same sport without cross training or proper conditoning.
As a coach and a trainer and a Mom, my first goal is to empower young ladies to become stronger and more aware of their physical fitness. However, parents need to be at the front line when it comes to watching out for their daughters. Yes, I know, your daughter is the best (fill in the blank)_____ player in your town and is SURE to get a college scholarship, right? Not if she injures herself first! Parents-Do NOT allow your daughter to play one sport, year after year. Soccer comes to mind here. The girls in my town play soccer all year round. Soccer creates significant muscle imbalances in the legs and hips, UNLESS these ladies get proper conditioning and a good physical assessment to determine weak areas of the body.
The key to decreasing injury risk is to get your athletes stronger. Strengthen the glutes, the hip muscles, the anterior core. Stretch tight areas post exercise, and always warm up properly before practice or games. Contact a certified trainer or strength coach to assess your athletes biomechanics. DON’T rely on your doctor or even your local orthopedist for the best answers either. I have found, overwhelmingly, that most MD’s just do not understand biomechanics, and they all recommend the same thing: strenghthen the quadriceps. This is poor advice, and for some girls, could actually increase the risk of knee injury even further.