By Warren Potash
Volunteer coaches mistakenly think that only skills training will help their female athletes. Why am I using the word “mistakenly”? Since females have many challenges at puberty, they need to utilize proven lower body stabilization exercises to help them become the best athlete they can become while minimizing their risk for injury.
Fact: Teen female athletes suffer ACL [anterior cruciate ligament in knees] injuries at a 3-8 times greater rate than same-age male athletes; these are female-specific knee factors that have major short and long term implications for those injured.
There are many more facts available as to why this happens (Examples Here). Researchers in June 2010 said: “After puberty, females develop less strength than males… Although the proportion of muscle fiber type is similar, the muscle fiber size is less in females… the process of puberty in females impedes their best sports performance by lowering their physical optimum.”
In the past 10 years, researchers and leading orthopedic surgeons have been urging the parents of female athletes to incorporate lower body stabilization training as an integral part of their practices. Dr. LaBella, an orthopedic surgeon, provided about 300 volunteer coaches of female basketball players with a lower body stabilization program (KIPP training) and only about 30% of the coaches implemented this valuable program.
Having successfully trained more than 600 teen female athletes since 1995, I wrote: They’re Not Boys – Safely Training the Adolescent Female Athlete1 in 2012 to help parents, coaches, and trainers understand and appreciate the challenges so what I call BNP Training can help young female athletes minimize their risk for knee injuries. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons started STOP Youth Sports Injuries several years ago to help girls and boys.
The stated reason for coaches to not help their female athletes is: I only have my field for an hour and I can’t waste time on exercises. Yet, they will yell at their players to perform movements that do not come naturally to them. The vast majority of volunteer coaches have no training to help youngsters. They do not know what to do and many I have spoken to do not want the information since if they knew about what to do and didn’t do it – they would be complicit when working with youth sports’ teams.
There is a way to make sure lower body stabilization (and upper body stabilization for overhead athletes) training becomes part of working with youth. The parks and recreation programs can take a stand that every coach must become “certified” and learn how to help their female athletes before they can use their facilities.
There may be other ways, but this is a direct way to reach the adults who have not been helping today’s youth minimize their risk for injury with safe and age-appropriate training programs.
– Warren J. Potash, Specialist in Exercise Therapy and Sports Nutrition and Sports Performance Coach, Author: They’re Not Boys – Safely Training the Adolescent Female Athlete (2012) and co-author Your Lower Back (1993)