In general, women suffer sports injuries more often than men, so take extra care to avoid a mishap while playing sports or exercising:
- Learn how to jump and land properly. When women jump, they tend to land in an upright position that allows the knee to move more side-to-side and rotate. This reduces shock absorption, thereby increasing the risk of leg injuries. Instead, your hips, knees and ankles should be flexed when you land in order to absorb the force of the landing.
- The 20-minute PEP (Prevent injury and Enhance Performance) program, developed by the Santa Monica Sports Medicine Foundation, addresses deficits most common in women athletes. It includes warm-up, strengthening, stretching, plyometrics and agility exercises that can help you prevent knee injuries if you engage in high-intensity sports or activities that involve jumping or side-to-side motion, such as soccer, downhill skiing, tennis or vigorous dancing. A study in the American Journal of Sports Medicine in 2008 found that female college soccer players who performed the program three times a week had a significant reduction in ACL injuries compared to a control group. You can download it at smsmf.org/pep-program.
- Wear proper footwear and work out on appropriate (not very hard) surfaces. Insoles may help if your feet overpronate (roll inwards).
- Avoid wearing high heels, except on special occasions.
- Don’t suddenly intensify or lengthen your workouts.
- Lose weight if you’re overweight—excess weight puts increased stress on knees.
- Try these sports injury prevention exercises.
Adapted from The University of California, Berkeley Wellness Letter (December 2011)