Heart Health Articles

Female Soccer Players Can Take Steps To Avoid Knee Injuries

August 31, 2017

The number of damaging knee injuries among female soccer players has grown at an alarming rate.

"Women injure their knees, especially their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACL), six to nine times more than men," said Dr. Kaare Kolstad, an orthopedic surgeon with The Methodist Hospital in Houston. "Most female soccer players tear their ACL when they stop abruptly or land awkwardly after jumping. It is typically a non-contact injury."

Research has shown that as female athletes mature physically, growth in height and muscular changes cause them to have less control of their knee joints. This is why women tend to change direction and land from jumping with their knees straight and inward predisposing them to ligament and cartilage tears. One way to combat this problem is to strengthen the core muscles; back, abdominal, and hip, and to teach them proper jumping technique.

"If you don't have a strong core, repetitive movements like jumping, or changing direction can have a negative affect on the knee and could eventually cause a serious injury," said Kolstad, one of the head physicians for the Houston Dynamo of Major League Soccer. "Sit ups, push ups, mild weight training such as leg presses, especially for children ages 13 to 16, will go a long way towards strengthening these muscles."

It's also important to get into a jumping program where you practice leaping and landing correctly with the knees bent. There are several ways to do this:

-- Jumping up and down off a small platform.

-- Hopping back and forth over cones.

-- Jumping forward from a straight position and landing with the knees bent.

-- Jumping rope.

Some athletes might experience soreness in the knee after practice or games. This could either be tendonitis, an inflammation of the patellar tendon, or Osgood-Schlatter, a condition that affects children ages 10 to 15 who experience growth spurts.

"Stretching before, during and after practice and games, and even when you are not practicing will also help prevent these types of knee injuries," Kolstad said. "These problems need to be taken seriously because they might predispose them to more serious knee problems as the child gets older. This is why it is important to strengthen the core muscles, and work on jumping and cutting with the knees bent. Taking the time to train properly just might give a female soccer player a better chance at playing the entire season without any knee problems."

Methodist Hospital, Houston
6565 Fannin St.
Houston, TX 77030
United States