Over the last couple of years, both doctors and parents are growing more concerned over the increase in sports-related injuries from youth sports. According to Safe Kids Worldwide, there were 2.6 million kids ages 19 and younger who visited an emergency room due to a sports injury (up from 1.5 million just a few years earlier). This is not counting the perhaps millions of kids who go to an urgent care or make a clinic appointment. According to the SAFE KIDS Campaign and American Academy of Pediatrics, over 3.5 million children get hurt annually playing sports, whether recreationally or competitively. Alarmingly so, youth sports injuries account for 20% of all injury-related emergency room visits from children ages 6-19.
But who gets hurt the most? What injuries are most common?
New studies are showing that girls sustain the most sports-related injuries, and it’s mostly knee injuries.
Girls Are More Prone To Knee Injuries, Say New Studies
According to recent studies, girls are more at risk for sports injuries like ankle sprains, concussions, and knee injuries. In fact, some pediatricians are finding a 59% increase in ACL injuries among teenage girls. Furthermore, they are seeing that female athletes are being injured at a rate that can vary between two to ten times higher than their male counterparts.
ACL tears are particularly a danger for teenage girls, being steadily on the rise over the past 20 years. However, knee injuries aren’t the only injury that girls are more at risk for in sports. They are also at more risk of sustaining a concussion. Female soccer players, in particular, are suffering more concussions than any other sport.
Why Are Girls More At Risk For Knee Injuries?
The reasons why girls are more at risk for sports injuries vary greatly and many experts are still debating it. However, some factors may include:
- More aggression is being seen in many sports, especially at a younger age and especially by females.
- Decreased neuromuscular control in the hip affects the landing with the knees, putting more stress and pressure on the joint, which can lead to injury.
- Estrogen may even play a part as researchers have found that it can weaken the ACL, especially around puberty when estrogen levels sharply rise with leg growth.
- Body build has everything to do with injury risk. Women typically have smaller ACLs than men, which gives it a high-risk factor for injury. Furthermore, women have wider pelvises, more lax ligaments, less developed quads and slower reflex time, all of which puts more pressure on joints and ligaments, and weakens stabilization.
What Can We Do About Injury Risk?
By focusing on strengthening weaknesses, we can lower the risk to injury. Furthermore, by targeting proper movement and form, athletes can take the pressure off the knees. Exercises that target the hips and quads can help with the stabilization of the knee. Furthermore, analyzing movement and form will also help decrease the risk. Such prevention programs will help not only girls remain injury-free, but boys as well.