From Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, Chicago, IL
Note: this article is produced by our partners at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush in Chicago, Illinois and first appeared on their website: https://www.rushortho.com/news/sports-injury-risk-girls-or-boys
School is back in session and that means youth athletes are returning to the field, court or track. Parents and players beware: recent reports have shown that youth sports-related injuries are on the rise.
But who is more at risk: Girls or boys?
The answer is surprising. Girls are actually more at risk for several of the most common ones, including ankle sprains, concussion and ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) injuries in the knee. JADA Pediatrics recently found a 59% increase in ACL injuries among girls age 13-17 over 13 years. And, the incidence of ACL tears in female athletes has been found to be 2 to 10 times higher than in male counterparts.
According to Dr. Jeremy Alland, a sports medicine physician at Midwest Orthopaedics at Rush, “the increase in ACL injuries among girls is due to a lack of neuromuscular strength training,” he explains. “Among other factors, girls tend to have less control at the hip and tend to land with their knees in an inward or “knock-kneed” position. This can increase their risk for knee injuries like ACL tears.”
It’s no secret that men and women are built differently, but the reasons why the rate of ACL injuries are higher in girls has been hotly debated.
Experts point to these possible factors:
In terms of concussion, a recent study presented at the 2017 meeting of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) shows that girls are more likely to sustain a sports concussion than boys in similar sports. One theory is that girls have longer, thinner necks that tend to create more whiplash to the brain compared to boys. Their necks may also contain weaker muscles than boys. Experts also cite a lack of protective gear, an emphasis on in-game contact and the practice of “headers”. Lastly, girls may just be better at reporting concussion symptoms than boys.
Medical data suggests that ankle sprains are the most common single injury in high school sports, accounting for roughly one in six of all high school sports-related injuries. According to a study on overuse injuries published in The Journal of Pediatrics, girls were more likely to suffer ankle sprains than boys in soccer, softball/baseball, and track and field. Another study showed that girls’ ankle tendons were inherently more lax than boys, making them more prone to ankle sprains. Many of the risk factors mentioned above for ACL injuries also apply to ankle sprains.