American Family Children's Hospital

This Month in Sports Rehabilitation: Female Athletic Injuries (September 2010)

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Keeping Female Athletes in the Game


UW Health Sports Medicine physicians and staff discuss why female athletes are more susceptible to certain sports injuries and what can be done to prevent injuries and optimize performance and health.


Three female basketball playersInjuries and the Female Athlete


Female athletes are getting in the game with greater frequency, and their increased participation means more injuries.


Title IX, which guarantees equal opportunity in programs offered by universities that receive federal funds, was passed into law in 1972. Further policies and acts, such as the Amateur Sports Act of 1978, have continued the improvement in equality of resources and programming between men's and women's sports since that time.4


Title IX has had a profound impact on the growth of female athletic participation. In 1972, only one of 27 high school girls played varsity sports. By 1998 the ratio was one in three.4 Since Title IX the increase in the number of female athletes and female athletic programs has continued to grow.


Another study confirmed that since 1975 there has been an 875 percent increase in sports participation levels in American female high school athletics and a 435 percent increase in corresponding college athletics. From 1989 to 1992 the number of NCAA institutions sponsoring varsity women's soccer programs has increased from 308 to 455 (48 percent).1


This increase in sports participation has also brought the health and medical issues of the female athlete to the forefront. Many injuries may be sport-specific but research over the past decade has taught us that there are also specific gender differences in the predisposition to certain injuries.


One study found that the ACL injury rate in women's soccer players was more than double than that of male soccer players. Cartilage injuries are also significantly higher in women's soccer.2


That same study showed the ACL injury rate for women's basketball players was more than four times that of the men's hoopsters, and women again had a higher incidence of knee cartilage injuries.2 A 2005 study reviewing 13 years of injury patterns in the NCAA observed that knee injuries continued to be much more prevalent in female soccer and basketball players compared to their male counterparts.3 A study that reviewed female athlete injuries in the NCAA over 15 years observed that over 70 percent of the injuries occurred in the lower extremities.5


October 30, 2010 Seminar


UW Health Sports Medicine will host a free seminar, "Keeping Female Athletes in the Game," about injuries to which female athletes are susceptible. Sports Medicine physicians Dr. Tammy Scerpella, Dr. Kathleen Carr, Dr. Alison Brooks, psychologist Dr. Shilagh Miragain, and the UW Sports Rehabilitation staff will discuss why female athletes are more susceptible to certain injuries and what can be done to prevent injuries and optimize performance and health.


In addition to the presentations, this seminar will include sports training workshops for female athletes ages 12-18:

  • Dynamic Warm-up: Learn drills that can be used for a dynamic warm-up prior to practice or competition. Dynamic warm-up activities have been shown to be superior to static stretching exercises in preparing for sports participation.
  • Jumping and Landing: Learn how proper landing alignment and techniques can reduce your chance of injury and also help create more power for an increased vertical jump. These drills can be incorporated in to your sports training and injury prevention program.



  1. National Collegiate Athletic Association Participation Study: 1989-90 to 1992-93. Overland Park, KS, National Collegiate Athletic Association, 1994
  2. Arendt E, Dick R. Knee injury patterns among men and women in collegiate basketball and soccer. NCAA data and review of literature. Am J Sports Med. 1995 Nov-Dec;23(6):694-701.
  3. Agel J, Arendt EA, Bershadsky B. Anterior cruciate ligament injury in national collegiate athletic association basketball and soccer: a 13-year review. Am J Sports Med. 2005 Apr;33(4):524-30. Epub 2005 Feb 8.
  4. Lopiano DA. Modern history of women in sports. Twenty-five years of Title IX. Clin Sports Med. 2000 Apr;19(2):163-73, vii.
  5. Dick R, Putukian M, Agel J, Evans TA, Marshall SW. Descriptive epidemiology of collegiate women's soccer injuries: National Collegiate Athletic Association Injury Surveillance System, 1988-1989 through 2002-2003. J Athl Train. 2007 Apr-Jun;42(2):278-85.