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May 6

Keeping our teenage girls in sport and loving it.

Keeping our teenage girls in sport and loving it is essential for their lifetime health and well-being. It is up to us all as a community to support them wherever possible.

Did you know that the average age for a girl to drop out of organized sport is 13?  For reference, the average age for boys is slightly older, at 15.

As a community we must be focused on helping adolescent girls get fitter and stronger and hopefully be able to prevent injuries and keep them enjoying their sport throughout their schooling and into early adulthood!

We know the benefits of sport to the young female body. At the stage where most are dropping out, young teenage bodies are developing strong bones. This is the time they must be doing hard running, jumping, climbing and movement. This bone density is what they will take through their lives.

Whats happening to our girls?

There is so much change occurring during adolescence, in all body systems and within their environment. The changes in hormones at puberty produce significant changes, which can have both direct and indirect effects on injury patterns and pain presentations.  

We see huge changes in neuromuscular control (coordination), the brain isn’t listening so well to the joints and muscles (not just their parents 😆).

There are big changes in height, and leg length, and often more ligament laxity in our girls.  How often has a parent called “my child looks like a baby giraffe when they run”? Thats all those changes, right there! It is no wonder injury rates start to rise.

For more on the amazing brain changes in adolescence, check out The Beautiful Brain from National Geographic.

Mental development

In adolescence, most sports drop the modified children’s version of the sport, resulting in increased training and competition. Representative duties begin (school, club, state and even national). Teens social status can be strongly linked to sporting ability, and most people play the majority of sport at their most competitive levels during their teenage and early adult years.  

In the background of our teenage girls are huge social changes and significant influences from peers and the media. Academic pressures and big life decisions being made (and changed), and there is a shift away from family supports in preference to peers and mentors and idols.

Influence increases from idols and mentors during adolescence. Sport can help keep that positive.

Sport can help path the way for these changes. However the mental/ life stressors can have a major effect a teenage girl’s body and the impact of injury can be devastating. Whilst an adult can often (see the bigger picture), if she gets an injury the teenage girl may feel her life (as she knows it) is over. This will also impact how she experiences pain and how she responds to rehabilitation.

Many injuries occur for the first time in adolescence for the reasons mentioned above. Some are unique to adolescence (such as Osgood Schlatters, Severs, joint dislocations and knee pain), sometimes with long term consequences if not managed appropriately.

The management and experience with injury and pain during adolescence impacts our beliefs around injury, pain and recovery later in life, so a positive first experience with injury / pain and recovery is critical.

What we do at Vital Core

So, what do we see in teenaged girls?  In terms of pain, patellofemoral joint pain (under or around the knee cap) is one of the most common. Some girls even give up sport because of it, and yet it can be quite straightforward to treat and manage.  We particularly look at the strength and coordination of the muscles around her hip, knee and ankle to ensure that the loads are shared amongst the big muscles groups without too much load on any one group.  If not well managed, some women do still report pain 20 years later, and it can potentially develop into arthritis of the joint, so it is really important to treat it properly, early.

ACL ruptures and shoulder dislocations are actually at their peak incidence and prevalence in teenaged girls, and also have quite serious repercussions with surgery often being utilized to manage it and a long term risk of arthritis in the affected joint.  Again, good rehab makes a massive difference.  

There are loads of other potential injures, but what we see most commonly at Vital Core is niggle joint pain, mostly related to the massive growth and brain re-organization that she is going through.  

Our girls are often a bit clumsy as a result, they can’t balance well on one leg, and they do very odd compensatory patterns when they try to squat or push something heavy. They land and take off in an awkward position for her knee and ankle.  

After a thorough assessment and diagnosis, we develop a plan with both the teenager and her parent/s.  It will always include advice on modifying some of the sport, sometimes a conversation about priorities, and always some exercises to do to improve her coordination. These will be done at home, but due to demand from our patients, we are now offering specific Clinical Rehab session utilizing Pilates machines for teenaged girls.  

Vital Core Physio’s guide and correct technique.

These sessions are run in a small group, after each girl has had an assessment, we have set goals for improvement and sport, and then her program is specific to her.  Each girl in the group is following her own program.  We have added these specific sessions for the teenaged athlete because most girls don’t really want to be exercising with their mother!  The music is a bit more to her taste, and there are only other girls in the class, along with the physio to ensure she is correctly implementing these new movement patterns and develop better strength and control. Contact the clinic (83310552) or book an appointment online.

Let’s together help keep our teenage girls injury free and participating in organised sport for many more years than the average!