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Monday, Sep. 1, 2014

Injuries on the rise

Sunday, January 1, 2006

(Photo)
Dexter junior basketball player Haylee Finch does squats as part of her rehabilitation after surgery.
SIKESTON - One in every 100 high school female athletes will sustain a serious knee injury every year. Approximately 70 percent of knee injuries are non-contact.

The above statistics are sobering considering that female athletes are competing in athletics more than ever. The dangers of an injury to female athletes dwarf that compared to males.

Female athletes who take part in sports involving jumping and "cutting" (soccer, basketball, volleyball, gymnastics, etc.) have a risk of knee injury that is 4-6 times higher than for men taking part in the same sports.

Amy Gordin, who is Director of Rehabilitation Services at ReStart in Sikeston, is well aware of the dangers that female athletes face.

"There are numerous causes that affect females more than males," said Gordin. "Females have a wider pelvis and as a result the quads don't have a straight angle to pull, just not as strong compared to males. Females have more joint laxity due to hormones within females and the collagen in females is just not as strong as the collagen in males. The intercondylar notch in the knee is more narrow in females. A severe twisting motion can really tear the ACL."

(Photo)
Finch works on exercises for her knee rehabilitation.
Gordin went on to explain that females have physiological differences to males in muscle usage.

"Girls have a lower hamstring/quadriceps ratio," said Gordin. "In physical therapy we look at muscle imbalances and how strong the quads are in front of the leg, compared to the hamstrings on the back."

Jumping and landing affects females more than the males.

"Watch and you see different landing techniques between girls and boys," said Gordin. "Men, because they are stronger, absorb the force of the landing due to a stronger intercondylar notch. Females don't absorb the force as males do."

Several local female athletes have experienced serious injuries to their knees in recent years.

Former Dexter standout Hannah Burleson, has overcome her knee injury to be a productive player for the Three Rivers Lady Raiders basketball team.

"From the time of my injury, until I felt like 100 percent," said Burleson, "it was one full year of recovering. I went through an exhaustive recovery period, working constantly to strengthen my knee. Now, I worked so long on strengthening, the injured knee is stronger than the healthy knee."

Burleson has fully recovered and does not use a knee brace when playing basketball.

"I have full confidence in my knee," said Burleson. "Their is never a thought in my mind where I believe I might reinjure the knee."

Current Dexter junior athlete Haylee Finch, is in the process of recovering from a severe knee injury.

"I work on my knee every day," said Finch. "It is mandatory that I attend once a week, but I still go every day. I workout about an hour a day, trying to get healthy for the basketball season.

"Only three weeks ago was I walking normally, so it has taken some time to get going again. There are some days when you feel horrible and think you are getting behind. Next day, you start up and are way ahead of schedule."

Finch injured her knee about four months ago and is ahead of schedule thanks in part to her strong mental will.

"After a few weeks of therapy, you are pretty much on your own," said Finch. "It is all about where your mindset is at and how much you want to recover. Weightlifting I take seriously and I probably do too much but I want to get back for basketball. I do one-leg hops and tons of leg raises. I do 500 leg raises a day."

ReStart in Sikeston offers a six-week program in the summer that Sikeston's female athletes can take advantage of.

"We teach the girls how to absorb ground action forces," said Gordin. "We try to strengthen hamstrings and quads and try to teach them to land better. We change their technique. Females hyper-extend their knees a lot and lock their knees. Rather than have a little bend in the knee, where the muscles can fire."

Programs that work with injured female athletes concentrate on exercises that increase strength and flexibility.

"We can't change that girls have a wider pelvis," said Gordin. "Really can't change the joint laxity. We can change the ham/quad ratio by strengthening the hamstrings. We can change the landing differences and technique. Also, we can change the muscle imbalances."

Gordin believes that programs like the one at ReStart, can not only decrease the risk of injuries in females, but also can increase vertical jump, improve overall strength and can improve proprioceptive skills.

Currently, Finch is improving and thinks her days of not playing are numbered.

"It gets better every day," said Finch. "I have a while to go, but I have started to scrimmage with the team and my knee is getting there. I am feeling upbeat and can't wait to rejoin the team and start playing again."

Female injuries are increasing but programs do exist that are proactive in trying to cut down the potential of injury.

If an injury does occur, local female athletes have shown that recovery is possible. But it is not easy; hard-work, dedication and desire all played an important factor for Burleson and Finch to heal.