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Sports Training and Injury Prevention for Teen Girls

How to train, stay fit, and avoid injury.
By Linda Melone
WebMD Feature

If you're planning on participating in soccer, running, tennis, cheerleading, gymnastics, soccer, or any other sport, give yourself time to get in shape before jumping into the season.

You'll not only be faster and have better endurance, you'll also be less likely to suffer an injury that may prevent you from finishing the season.

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The right training, combined with good nutrition, goes a long way toward keeping you in the best shape all season long. Here's what experts suggest.

Keep Your Knees Safe

After puberty, your pelvis is wider than a guy's pelvis. And that gives you a greater Q-angle -- the angle from hip to knee.

"This puts a woman's knee at greater risk when landing," says C. David Geier Jr., MD, director of the Medical University of South Carolina and assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery.

To understand why, imagine a circus performer walking on straight stilts versus walking on stilts that start out wide at the top and become narrow near the bottom.

Plus, your knee's femoral notch -- which is where your ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is located -- is narrower than a man's. And hormonal fluctuations throughout your menstrual cycle (which may contribute to "looser" joints) may also make your knees more prone to ACL injuries.

"Women are two to eight times more likely to tear their ACL, which commonly occurs during activities such as jumping and landing," says Eric Lee, MD, orthopaedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif.

An ACL tear will put you on the bench. So keeping your knees healthy should be a top priority.

You're more likely to land with less hip and knee flexion than boys, meaning you land with stiffer legs. That makes an injury more likely, Lee says.

A sports coach can teach you how to land properly and reduce the risk of injury.

Also consider including agility drills in your routine. Agility involves changing direction while moving quickly. Becoming more agile may help you land in a better position, Lee says.

Here are more tips:

  • Strengthen the muscles around the knee (quadriceps and hamstrings) with leg extensions, leg raises, lunges, squats
  • Incorporate (supervised) jumping and plyometric (explosive) exercise training
  • Include stretching the muscles used in the sport (i.e. shoulder stretches for swimmers, leg stretches for runners, etc.)

If you have flat feet or other foot issues or imbalance, see a podiatrist.

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