Girls at risk of knee injuries

Short stuff: Health roundup

No matter what the sport or the season, girls face a drastically higher chance of injuring their knees than boys. Fortunately, there’s something female athletes and their coaches can do to prevent it.

Girls, especially teenagers, are up to six times more likely to injure their Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) than boys, says Dr. Cynthia LaBella, medical director of the Institute for Sports Medicine at Children’s Memorial Hospital. The likely cause doesn’t involve hormone or anatomical differences, she says, but how girls control their muscles.

For example, when boys jump, they tend to squat more, using both their quadriceps and hamstrings. When girls jump, they rely more on their upper legs, bend less and often allow their knees to cave inward.

The good news, LaBella says, is that girls’ muscles can be retrained and injuries can be prevented.

The Institute for Sports Medicine’s program, called the Knee Injury Prevention Program (KIPP), teaches girls exercises to strengthen the muscles and retrain old habits.

LaBella is finishing a three-year study with Chicago Public Schools involving 2,000 girls who participated in a range of sports at various levels of competition. She and her team trained coaches how to use the KIPP exercises. The rate of knee injuries, not to mention all leg injuries, dropped significantly for those girls who received training in KIPP, she says.

KIPP training is available for both coaches and players at various sites around Chicago. For more information, go to or call (773) 327-1201.

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