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Knee News

Preventing Knee Injuries: It's a "Gal" Thing

Call it hormones; call it anatomy. Females have nearly six times the risk of having a knee injury when doing jump-and-cut sports compared to males in the same sports. Depending on the sport, women athletes have up to 10 times the risk of serious knee injury than men. "Lowering these high figures by even a small percentage could have a significant effect on the number of knee injuries," say the authors of this study.

To this end, these researchers put an idea to the test: namely, that female athletes would have fewer knee injuries if they did a program of stretching, jump training, and weight lifting. Participants included sports team members from 12 high schools. Half of the female teams went through this specialized training program. The other half did not. The authors also included a control group of 13 untrained male teams.

The training program lasted six weeks, during which female participants worked out three days per week for up to 90 minutes. The training paid off. They had a lower injury rate and fewer serious injuries than the untrained group. And even though the exercise group had a higher incidence of injury than untrained males, the rate was far lower than among females who didn't train.

Jump training, also called plyometrics, improves muscle strength and dampens joint impact. The authors believe that female athletes benefit from this type of training by gaining improved hamstring muscle strength. The authors suggest that strengthening this muscle helps keep the knee in better alignment and cushions the knee during high-level sport activities, like landing a jump.

In view of their findings, the authors recommend that "young female athletes in sports that entail jumping, pivoting, and cutting, such as basketball, volleyball, and soccer, be trained before participation with a proven effective jump training program that includes progressive resistance weight training for the lower extremity." They conclude that "such training, if effectively used on a widespread basis, might help to significantly decrease the number of athletes injured each year."

Timothy E. Hewett, PhD, et al. The Effect of Neuromuscular Training on the Incidence of Knee Injury in Female Athletes: A Prospective Study. In The American Journal of Sports Medicine. November/December 1999. Vol. 27. No. 6. Pp. 699-705.


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