Preventing knee injuries in young, female athletes

Mayo Clinic: Girls 4 to 6 times more likely to suffer ACL injury

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - It's all too common on the soccer field and basketball court.  A high school athlete jumps to get the ball, lands and blows out a knee. And most of that time those athletes are girls. Girls are four to six times more likely to suffer a certain kind of knee injury than boys.

And that's why sports medicine specialists at Mayo Clinic are working on proper training.

"We also work on injury prevention to help correct faulty mechanics," said athletic trainer Candee Mills.

When an athlete cuts, pivots or jumps, the athlete puts stress on the Anterior Cruciate Ligament or ACL in the knee.  If the knee collapses inward during these moves, that ligament can tear.

ACL injuries are especially a problem for girls, possibly because of the angles of their leg bones or imbalanced muscles around the knee. But proper training can help prevent ACL injuries.

"We're trying to train them to be able to land better and jump better," said Chad Eickoff, MA, sports medicine specialist with the Mayo Clinic.

"Legs shoulder width apart. you have to jump as high as you can and when you land you have to land straight and your knees can't go in or out," explained soccer player Lidia Ouk.

At the heart of research now is jump mechanics and landing mechanics.  These drills teach how to move more safely and will strengthen the muscles around the knees. 

ACL injuries usually mean a trip to the operating room and reconstructions are not minor.  Recovery can keep you out of the game for nine months to a year.  But injury prevention training can keep kids in the game. 

For more information on preventing ACL injuries, visit or call the Mayo Clinic here in Jacksonville at (904) 953-2272.

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