Girls are five times more likely to suffer anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, according to Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute. They said a female’s risk skyrockets after puberty and while girls are young and active, soccer and basketball are sports that increase the risk of damage to the knee.
Shaniya Mitchell is a Texas Southern University basketball player and Alexia Ladipo is a TSU soccer player. Both young ladies had surgery for an ACL injury in November, within a day of each other.
“When I came down, my knee went one way and my body went another,” Ladipo said.
For Shaniya, this is the second time with a torn ACL.
“I said ‘down goes Frazier,’” she laughed, admitting she recognized the injury the instant it happened.
Shaniya said at least half of the female athletes she knows have had the same injury
"Something aint right,” she said. “I aint seen a lot of dudes here.”
The ligament inside the knee provides stability and prevents your leg from buckling, Memorial Hermann physical therapist, Chris Juneau said. He said the difference in leg strength between men and women leads to more females hurting their ACL but a specialized training can drastically reduce the risk of ACL injury.
“Lower body strengthening, and then movement conditioning and so the strengthening side of things is typically associated with your quad which is the muscle in the front of your thigh and your hamstrings along with your glute muscles," Juneau explained by strengthening your lower body, women can provide more support to the knee.
Lengthy warm-ups, acute resistance and weight training can help protect the ligament inside the knee.
Alexia and Shaniya swear to take all of the conditioning techniques they’re learning in physical therapy a lot more seriously going forward.
“Before practice, before the game, get some heat, get rubbed down with some icy hot, do my own stretches… then go out and stretch with the team,” Shaniya said is her plan for future games.
Juneau suggested in addition to stretching and warming up the knee (for example, on a stationary bike), lifting weights at the gym can help strengthen muscles. Also, he said yoga can increase flexibility in joints.
Sports that involve cutting and explosive movements put the ACL at more risk for injury.