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Supporting female performance in sport and fitness
Supporting female performance in sport and fitness

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3 What can be done to protect female athletes against ACL injuries?

Firstly, in Activity 1 Dr Emma Ross explained why it is important for female athletes to track their menstrual cycle so they can identify the times in their cycle when oestrogen levels are higher, usually around days 9–14 of a typical 28-day cycle, and injury may be more likely. Then the athlete can be prepared and make adaptations to their training or competition schedule if required.

Emma referred to non-contact ACL injuries which is where the force is not applied from an external source, such as during a tackle, or where an external force is placed on the knee joint. ACL injuries in females are most prevalent in sports involving multidirectional movement, such as football, rugby, basketball, hockey and netball, where they may land in risky positions or have to twist and turn quickly (Zumwalt, 2019).

In Activity 2 you will examine whether the increased prevalence of ACL injuries is due more to social or physical factors that determine the physical conditioning of male and females

Activity 2 Are ACL injuries due to social or physical factors?

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Listen to a section of the podcast at the following link. Listen from 14:25 (‘In a nutshell, why do you think there are so many ACL injuries in women’s football …’) to 16:50 (‘… the biggest thing is the strengthening’): Injury and the female athlete: Injury risk and prevention, impact of the menstrual cycle, removing psychological fear and the consequences of playing catch up ( [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)]

Listen to the audio clip where Dr Nicole Surdyka, who is a physical therapist working in the rehabilitation and risk reduction of football injuries, explains why the increased prevalence of ACL injuries in female athletes may be due to social factors as much as physical ones.

To what extent do you agree with Dr Surdyka’s argument that it is social factors that are leading to high levels of ACL injury in female athletes.

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Dr Surdyka attributes the high levels of ACL injuries to increasing numbers of females participating in sport without being exposed to effective strength and conditioning programmes beforehand and the differences in activities performed by boys and girls. Historically boys have been generally taught to be more active, so they were more likely to develop the fundamental movement patterns and strength and conditioning that the body needs to protect against injury. However, this does seem to be changing with young females becoming increasingly active and involved in sports specific schemes and training programmes.