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Are Sports Just For Boys?

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Pediatrician Dr. Gwenn examines the growing number of knee injuries in girls.

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Dr. Gwenn writes: A recent New York Times article called The Uneven Playing Field would be more aptly named "The Unfair Playing Field," if we were to be truly honest about how our girls' bodies are being asked to perform in sports today.

ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) knee injuries, once rare before high school, are now alarmingly more common as the ages for sports participation gets younger and younger and the intensity of competition increases. Coaches and parents no longer draw the line at reasonable guidelines for safe and appropriate practices, game time behaviors, and return-to-play recommendations.

With girls at higher risk than boys for ACL injuries, our girls' knees are not safe. Youth sports experts all agree that the system needs to be overhauled. The American Academy of Pediatrics has long advocated for a child-focused system that emphasizes injury prevention and skill-building.

Turns out, ACL injuries can actually be prevented with a program that focuses on proper jumping and landing, leg and core muscle strength, and balance and leg strength. We also need to recognize that, while girls and boys are equal in many ways, they may not be equal in what sorts of sports they should be playing due to their hormonal and anatomical differences.

We can't let the bar continue to be set so unfairly high that our girls can't reach it without harming their growing bodies. If the pros get rest and rehab after an injury, so, too, should our kids. Stop thinking about the next game, and start thinking about the rest of their lives.

For more from Dr. Gwenn, click here.


1 comments so far | Post a comment now
Nicole May 15, 2008, 4:21 PM

As a former college athlete, and one who has a torn ACL, it is a price I was willing to pay. It was painful, recovery was hard, but I wouldn’t trade competitive sports for anything, even if I had known that I would temporarily lose a knee. My junior year in high school I tore my ACL, recovered, went on to play college sports, and actually grew from the experience. My knee now is more stable than before I tore my ACL and my doctor told me that for most women, unless the body is forced to do something WAY outside the normal output, if your ACL is weak, it’s weak. I didn’t jump or land improperly, I was just born with a bad knee… I agree that proper training SHOULD be taught to all athletes, but saying a girl shouldn’t compete in certain sports because she may incur injuries… what is that teaching our daughters? Besides, not every girl who continues to play competitively will tear her ACL… Sports, team atmosphere and the hard work that came along with that taught me more life lessons than I learned in Math class… Socialization, leadership, dedication…


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