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Duke Researchers Look At Ways To Prevent Injuries By Female Athletes

Posted April 28, 2005

— Different bone and muscle structure make women more prone to sports-related injuries. Specialists at Duke Sports Medicine help female athletes recover from serious knee injuries and help prevent them from happening again.

St. Mary's High School basketball player Blair Burke missed most of the 2004 season with a torn knee ligament. The same injury sidelined Duke lacrosse player Kaitlin Hancock.

"Last season alone, our team had 4 ACL tears, so it has been tough," Hancock said.

For men, most knee injuries come from contact. For women, injuries can come from a change in direction or coming down from a jump.

Women tend to land very straight in the hips and knees, so the knees take a lot more force," said Dr. Allyson Toth, director of women's sports medicine at Duke.

Dan Lorenz and Mike Huff, sports performance specialists, help female athletes strengthen their hips and knees and learn better ways to run and jump. Rather than putting all the weight on one leg, the women learn to get down low and make quick choppy steps when stopping. The same idea works when changing direction.

"All this is part of our dynamic warm-up, which is much different from sitting on the ground and stretching," Huff said.

It is not known why women tend to run or jump differently than men.

"The good news is that it's modifiable, so you can train young women to land differently. You can help improve balance," Toth said.

Toth said it is harder to teach women new techniques when they have reached college age. She believes the special strength training and techniques need to begin in middle school sports.

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