Girls Can

by Laura Ramus, P.T., A.T.C.

1. Encourage your school, coach, trainer or school district to learn and use new programs to train female athletes for pivot sports. Ask questions at back-to-school night or players meetings.

2. Maintain proper weight. Each extra pound you have puts four extra pounds of pressure on your knee when you walk.

3. Have your posture evaluated. If you tend toward a swayback or flat feet, get proper shoes. Both conditions can put more inward pressure on knees.

4. Strengthen your core muscles-back, abdominals, hips - not just your legs. That's where your strength comes from to play in a more crouched -and knee-protecting- position.

5. Start training 6-8 weeks before a sport or new activity begins. "A lot of this can be done at home" says Dr. Edward Wojtys, head of sports medicine at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. "Sending girls to the gym and having them just lift weights and run is not enough. You have to do the plyometrics and reflex training."

6. When you move during sports or just during everyday events, think: "Jump straight as an arrow" and land "light as a feather," toes to heels.

7. Be vigilant about using proper jumping and playing techniques near ovulation. New research at U-M shows ACL injuries tend to cluster on days 9-14 of women's cycle as the estrogen peak relaxes ligaments.

8. Aim for functional training: that is , do things that mimic the movements you actually would use in a sport or activity. "Correct strength training for girls is when you can control your own body weight against gravity," says Detroit Shock trainer Laura Ramus, who uses only light dumbbells in her program.

"When you go to shoot a basket, you need to control your own body weight as you jump, it's the best resistance. It does not make sense for a girl to sit on a leg extension machine. When in sports, do you kick your leg up like that?"

9. Work on improving reaction times. "When we test muscle strength, women contract their muscles slower than men," says Ramus. "Women take longer to generate maximum force than men do. If they have to stop quickly and turn, then it's more likely they're injured". Improve reaction times, and you can cut injuries. Ask coaches or trainers for assistance with this skill.

10. Work your hamstrings, not just your quadriceps. The hamstrings (back of thigh) help to stabilize the ACL and can also help improve your jump. In men, hamstrings are 60 percent to 70 percent as strong as the quadriceps (front of thigh). In women, they're only 45 percent to 55 percent as strong.


1. Full squats

2. Running downhill

3. Climbing stairs two at a time.

4. Exercising on hard surfaces

5. Wearing high heels regularly.

Sources for tips: Detroit Shock athletic trainer Laura Ramus; Dr. Edward Wojtys, University of Michigan; Cincinnati Sportsmetrics; American Acadamy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.

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GCJ    What Does Research Say?

Caraffa, Cerulli and Projetti report that the three main noncontact injury mechanisms are planting and cutting, straight-knee stopping, and one-step landing with the knee hyperextended.

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