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I Am Confused – What Should I Do?
I have addressed non-contact ACL (knee) injuries in female athletes in many articles. Now I look at a broader topic that is very important for all female athletes; overuse injuries, overtraining, and the female triad.
According to recent research, 29.3% of injuries sustained by college athletes are solely due to overuse, and female students are twice as likely to have overwork injuries as male students. I am concerned about teenage female athletes, why should I care about this statistic? The era of single-sport athletes from early childhood has created a need for young people to address why so many young people end up with sports injuries.
Overwork injuries don’t start in college. Their origin is during youth – playing one sport from a young age and using the muscles in the same way [overuse] in many, many years. A leading women’s college coach said [paraphrasing]: youth sports coaches need to train better because I don’t have time to master years of muscle memory. Cross training and/or playing more than one sport will help negate overuse and repetitive motion injuries.
An athlete can’t wait and say, “I’m playing in college and I’ll wait until then to train.” College coaches must adhere to rules regarding the amount of time spent with an athlete during the academic year. Likewise, coaches have limits on the time they can spend with their athletes. Therefore, every athlete should take personal responsibility for his body. The earlier in life the better. Researchers invite females aged 9 to 12 for training.
In other words, youth sports coaches should teach more than coaching sports skills. They must learn how to use exercises to stabilize and strengthen the athlete’s body, teach them proper running form for sprinting and running/jogging, and develop core strength in a safe and age-appropriate manner.
In addition, women must consume sufficient amounts of calcium every day because this is a critical time in every woman’s life to strengthen her bones. In the short term, strong legs and arms will improve the athlete’s sporting experience. In the long term, the possibility of osteoporosis is reduced.
The female athlete triad, overtraining and playing through injuries that cause daily aches and/or pain are just a few of the challenges that all female athletes face.
Eating disorders [and disordered eating]amenorrhea [loss of period], and osteoporosis are the three conditions of the triad. There are several negative consequences of any of these conditions in youth. Calcium must be consumed (1,250 mg to 1,500 mg per day through food, do not take supplements unless determined to be necessary by your doctor) to optimally develop bone strength with strengthening exercises. Stress fractures can occur if a woman’s hormones are out of balance.
Overuse injuries, overtraining and the female triad must be avoided. Important questions to address these challenges are:
- Safe, age-appropriate training for all female athletes, including front-to-back and right-to-left body balancing
- Proper nutrition for energy for all daily activities and sports; including sufficient calcium intake [milk, yogurt, cheese, etc.]. Try eating 7 colors of food a day and the athlete will ingest antioxidants and phytochemicals that help people be as healthy as possible.
- Proper rest – a teenager really needs 7-8 hours of sleep a day. Studies have shown that cheating on sleep and then sleeping for 12 hours or more does not make up for the lack of daytime rest
- Understanding the body. Realizing that printed images of women are not real [due to airbrushing] and make sure that not everyone can achieve thinness. The key is to be strong for your body type.
- Pain and/or soreness is your body’s signal to STOP what you are doing. Rest for 5 – 10 minutes and if pain and/or pain returns – seek your doctor’s opinion. Be aware that playing with inflammation and/or pain is detrimental to your long-term health [concussions – this is a separate topic that many states in the USA are dealing with now]
* Nutrition and portions are key during adolescence. On days when he exercises and plays sports for an hour or more [not standing around, but playing at 60%or higher level] – most female athletes need 1 1/2 times more calories than normal to meet their daily energy needs.
Everyone needs to understand that all female athletes can be true winners during their sports day when they learn to play and respect their sport while taking personal responsibility for their bodies by training for their sport, learning how to eat for daily energy and making sure they get proper rest.
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