At least eight female athletes have suffered serious knee injuries in the past two years, according to School Nurse Beth Escobar. Moreover, upward of 20 girls have experienced some sort of knee issue, hindering their play time.
Numerous studies have confirmed that girls are at least two times more likely than boys to tear their ACL, though the reason for this is still somewhat unclear. This occurs, doctors suspect, because female hips grow faster than the rest of their bodies, pressuring knee muscles. When landing or jumping, an athlete’s already-tight knee muscles are suddenly put under tremendous strain.
“One of the ways that girls can help prevent knee injuries is to keep all of the muscles supporting the knee nice and loose,” says Sports Trainer Larry Stahley. “This can help prevent knee pain and injuries a lot.”
Most injuries begin with complaints of minor knee pain, which grow progressively worse until an athlete visits a medical professional—or culminates in a season-ending injury. If you have any lasting pain, be proactive.
For deeper insight, I reached out to Jason McHugh, the director of physical therapy at Beantown Physio in West Roxbury, who sees about two new teen patients a month. “Don’t be afraid if you’re feeling a little something, don’t feel like you’re being a baby,” says McHugh. “Bring it up and just let people know so it doesn’t turn into something big, and then you might be able to stop a big problem from happening.”
Beyond physical limitations, competitive student-athletes who suffer knee injuries may also experience emotional distress. Escobar says, “I think that people who are injured sometimes can get to a place where they are beating themselves up, thinking ‘why did this happen to me,’ or ‘I shouldn’t have pushed myself so hard.’ I think that if you can just relax and realize that time usually does heal most things, you’re going to be okay.”
Take Chloe Cochener ’19 for instance. She injured herself after falling on her knee in soccer last fall. “I thought I would just be able to go back to regular activities after three weeks,” she says. “I had to go to physical therapy four times and was given exercises I still have to do now. I had no idea how long the process was.”
At physical therapy, Cochener worked with a trainer to develop a customized strengthening routine, including aerobic, cardio and weight workouts.
I can attest to the benefits of physical therapy. When I dislocated my knee running, I visited McHugh. At first, I couldn’t leg press 5-pounds with my injury. Afterward, I could leg press 80-pounds—no problem. With spring sports around the corner, if you get injured, get seen right away.