Raleigh, N.C. — Girls who play soccer also run a serious risk of knee injury, but exercises developed by a Wake County physical therapist can help them play hard and safe.
Ten-year-old Makayla Chavis is eager for soccer season after watching her favorite U.S. women's player go far in the World Cup this summer.
"I want to be like Abby Wambach. I want to make it to the World Cup," Makayla said.
Along with the glory, many of the stars that Makayla admires have had a knee injury that could end a season or a career: a torn anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL.
The injury can affect girls as early as 12 to 16 years old.
"There's a four to eight times more chance of them tearing their ACL than boys in the same age group," said Dr. Dan Cyr, a physical therapist with Wake Orthopaedics.
While girls are built differently than and generally aren't as strong as boys, Cyr believes that girls can develop training routines to cut their risk of ACL tears.
"We found that if we can get athletes to focus on controlling their knee when they're either landing, cutting or just working on balance that even up to 80 percent, they can decrease their chance of ACL risk," he said.
Cyr developed a two-day, six-week-long summer program based on other successful programs around the country.
Girls learn routines that address the five components of knee injury prevention: proper warm-up, balance, agility, strength and stretching.
Cry, who's recovered from a torn ACL of his own, said he's found those exercises really do carry over to the playing field.
Wake Orthopaedics is working with the Capital Area Soccer League to teach families, coaches and teams about their program. Cyr said the best way for girls to avoid ACL injury is to learn the routines and do them at home on their own time, as well at practices and games.
Kennedy Capps, 10, said the training exercises have made her even more motivated to achieve her World Cup dreams.
"It makes me want to be like a real soccer player and go out there and try my best," Kennedy said.