Researchers at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center have found that female high school athletes have a much higher risk of overuse injuries than males of the same age. Overuse injuries include stress fractures, tendonitis, and joint pain. These injuries occur when athletes repeatedly perform the same motion. Overuse injuries account for half of all athletic injuries and are more prevalent in teens ages 13-17.
Dr. Thomas Best studied 3,000 male and female injury cases across a seven year period. The cases came from twenty high school sports which included lacrosse, gymnastics, soccer, and volleyball. He and his team found that girls track reported the highest rate of overuse injuries (3.82). Girls field hockey (2.93) and girls lacrosse (2.73) followed. Boys overuse injuries were most prominent in swimming and diving (1.3).
“These young people spend more time playing sports both in competition and in practice. So, there’s a correlation there between the amount of time that they’re playing and the increased incidence of injuries,” said Best.
According to Best, some high school athletes spend upwards of 18 hours a week participating in athletics. Many even participate in more than one sport at a time.
The lower leg is generally the most common site of overuse injuries. The knee and the shoulder follow next. Best recommends that teen athletes vary their movement. This can be accomplished by playing more than one sport. He also advises his patients to focus on rest and proper nutrition.
“During this point of their lives, this is when girls are developing bones at the greatest rate,” Best said. “It’s incredibly important that they’re getting the proper amounts of calcium and vitamin D.”