Thursday, July 24, 2008

PART 1 That Which Does Not Kill Me, Makes Me Stronger…..uh…NO, The Opposite of That (Knee Injuries and Female Athletes-Part One)

I’m reading a good, but scary book, it’s like a thriller mystery: I can’t put it down, I’m petrified, and I can’t wait to see how it will end (or play out in my life, anyway). Everything I’ve witnessed in our soccer league is written down in this book in black and white. The statistics and real life examples in the book show it’s not just a fluke that in our club and league all the girls teams seem to have girls on crutches on the sidelines. They are out with ACL tears, meniscus cartilage tears, patella-femoral syndrome, stress fractures from overuse, and other knee (mostly) injuries. The book is Warrior Girls-Protecting Our Daughters from the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports, by Michael Sokolove. Basically, it describes

1) How seriously injured our female soccer and basketball players (mostly their knees) are getting playing the game they love
2) That the coaches, girls, and even the parents are downplaying the risks and the injuries
3) How the girls are pushing (and being pushed) to tough out their recovery after serious knee injuries and surgeries and come back to playing before they’re ready, causing re-injury, re-surgery, often guaranting chronic and future knee problems (like serious arthritis at age 30)
4) How the attitudes (trickled down from the coaches) of the players to ‘play at all costs’ and ‘win at all costs’ is exacerbating the problems
5) prevention techniques (yes, finally some positive news)

To be honest, the author goes into so much detail about the knee injuries and the actual surgery that I had to have a family intervention when my daughter caught me canceling next weeks soccer camp and replacing it with French Immersion camp. She managed to get me to chill out on that one (and Math Camp), but I’m starting to feel like she should spend a few weeks this summer laying on the couch (aaack) playing video games. I may even tell her where I hide the Funyons and Ring-Dings.

Apparently, because of their build, center of gravity, the way they run, and the way they land after jumping, girls are highly prone (8:1 compared to boys) to ACL ruptures. This repair requires a pretty invasive surgery involving taking a ligament from another part of the leg and replacing the ACL with it. The recovery time is about 6-9 months. It’s getting so common of an injury that many teams are taking extra players at tryouts knowing that at least 2 or 3 will end up with a ‘blown out’ knee before the season is out. Worse than that, and because it’s so common, the seriousness is down-played and the girls are encouraged to push it in rehab and get back to the field (or court) quicker and quicker. They all know others who’ve had ACL and it becomes a competition: how many surgeries you’ve had, how quick (and strong) you came back. And the competition is not just self-driven between the girls, but can be encouraged by the parents, coaches, physical therapists, etc. The book outlines some Case Stories, some real superstars in HS and college soccer and follows them and their injuries throughout their sports careers.

My own experience agrees with the book. On my daughters team (mind you, 12 year olds) practice has just started (July 1st) for the fall season and we have 3 girls who can’t practice yet, 2 because they are recovering from Patello-Femoral syndrome (left over from last season) and 1 who’s had knee surgery for ACL rupture. That’s 3 out of 17 twelve year olds. My own had a good bit of knee pain early last fall and then a wrenching contact injury that made us go to the orthopaedic doctor and got x-rays and an MRI. Luckily her ACL and meniscus were not torn, and she had a minor ACL sprain. Oh, and tendonitis in both knees, but the orthopaedic doc says all athletes who play and practice this often (and of a running, jumping nature) have it, so just get used to it (the pain). But it was a close enough call (and a wake up call) for me, so I started researching and got her some physical therapy and when my insurance ran out, I got her a personal trainer and he (and my research) designed an ACL prevention program for her. Yes, you read that right, my 12 year old has a personal trainer! I can’t even afford to buy kettle bells (hint, hint contest people), but I spend an exorbitant amount on a weekly personal training sessions for a kid who hasn’t even hit puberty.

In Part Two, I’m planning on talking about what we as parents can actually do to help.
PS I know this isn’t the most entertaining subject, so…… (lucky YOU)...conveniently I’ve just learned how to do the web links in a blog, so I apologize for going a bit overboard throughout this post.


Mark Salinas said...

I appreciate the book review and your personal insight. I have two daughters, one that is not into sports the other one is....I do have these concerns in my radar. Thanks again!

Sports Mom said...

Our soccer club sponsors an ACL injury prevention clinic at least once per season, and emphasizes injury prevention. The older teams (U12 and up) work with a trainer once a week to prevent such injuries.

I'm mindful of overstressing the bodies of young athletes and so far we've been lucky. It's definitely something to keep on the radar screen

MizFit said...

it IS interesting as Im hoping (yeah I admit it :)) that my Toddler does SOME sort of athletics (and weirdly enough am 'mama' to a 150 pound bullmastiff who has torn and had repaired TWO ACLs :))


Juicebox Mom said...

Mizfit: there's no way YOUR daughter will not enjoy athletics, with you as mom and your Warrior Dog as pet. She will love sports.

Just don't push the pup back into Agility training too soon :-)

Crabby McSlacker said...

How scary!

It makes me realize how lucky I was not to have injured myself as a girl--I was constantly playing soccer or tennis or jumping out of trees, etc. But since these activities were rarely organized and competitive, there wasn't pressure to play hurt or to keep going when exhausted.

Sad to see so many girls getting injured!

Sus said...

I'm embarrassed to admit that I never participated in group sports (unless you count the time that I led my 7th grade volleyball team to victory by the sheer unexpected lob of my underhand serve). So I am a little nervous about my first born (a girl) embarking on that journey before long. I should read you regularly so I'm not just left with the injury post lurking in my consciousness. :)

Thanks for stopping by my place.

fatfighter said...

I freelance as a TV news producer and just recently did a story on the high number of concussions in girls that play soccer and basketball in high school and college. We interviewed a HS soccer player - she was an honor student, but the concussion left her reading at a third grade level! So scary! She is still in recovery, but doing much better now.

baseballmom said...

Wow, this just happened to a friend's daughter. She was injured in a basketball game, and encouraged by the coach to play in the next tournament, he said it was 'no big deal'. Luckily they went to the doc first, and he did surgery THAT DAY for a torn miniscus. Scary that she could have played, and possibly injured herself forever. I scare myself to death reading about young pitchers ruining their elbows and shoulders...but I feel fortunate to be aware of it, and know my kids' limits and the dangers. Being informed is the most important thing you can do!

Heidi said...

Interesting- definitely a book I'm adding to my must-read list! My 13 year old is also using a personal trainer once a week, I may have to ask her about ACL prevention- right now she's just using the PT for the muscle-building. Her basketball has definitely improved since she started the PT though! But yeah, I wish I had the money for ME to have a PT too! :)