#136: Keys To Preventing ACL Injuries in Female Athletes w/ Erica Suter

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Do you worry about your athlete daughter getting injured while she plays her sport? Does your daughter worry about injury, too?

In this episode we’re joined by Erica Suter, Speed and Strength Coach for female athletes. Erica is a wealth of knowledge around all things strength training and injury prevention. We talk to Erica about what you need to know in order to help your daughter prevent ACL injuries while she plays her sport.

As we all know, we’ll never be able to fully prevent the possibility of injury while your daughter plays her sport. But there are some things we can do as her mom to help her practice prevention. If your daughter feels more equipped to play her sport without the fear of injury she’ll play with more confidence, and she’ll also feel empowered to play to her potential.

Are Female Athletes Really More Susceptible To ACL Injuries?

Erica explains that over the past few years, she’s noticed a growing concern in sports moms and daughters surrounding the possibility of  injury. She’s seen a shift from a focus on performance to a focus on injury prevention.

Erica shares that through research she has studied, she’s found that female athletes might be 2 to 5 times more likely to injure their ACL compared to males. This is due to the structure of the female body. Because females naturally have wider hips, more force is placed on the knee joint and makes a rupture more likely.

However, it’s important to note that the anatomy of a female is an uncontrollable factor. We can’t control the way females are built, but there are aspects to injury mitigation that are controllable. Although injury cannot be fully prevented, it can be mitigated by focusing on controllable factors. And when we help our athlete daughters focus on the controllable factors, they can be empowered instead of fearful. And as her mom, we can be empowered, too! 

Controllable Factors

1. Strength Training 

Erica explains that the number one factor within your athlete daughter’s control is a focus on strength training. The athletes that are most susceptible have what’s called ligament dominance, or weak muscles. For this reason, it’s critical that female athletes incorporate strength training into their overall training for their sport. Erica recommends that female athletes start to incorporate strength training as early as middle school, and that they incorporate strength training year round. Strength training is a controllable injury prevention tactic, and Erica says it’s essential.

2. Lifestyle Factors

Proper nutrition is another important and controllable injury prevention factor. Erica shares that athletes should prioritize their nutrition and make sure they are fueled properly for competitions, tournaments, games, and practice. When athletes compete while they are experiencing fatigue, a lack of proper nutrition, or both, the likelihood for injury increases. Recovery nutrition is important as well, and this one is often overlooked.

As Her Mom, How Can You Help?

Erica explains that as her mom, you can encourage her by helping her to focus on improving her performance rather than focusing on preventing injury. For example, if you pursue a strength training program to incorporate into her overall training for her sport, you don’t necessarily have to say, “we’re taking you to strength training to prevent injury”, this might teach her to fear injury. Instead, you can emphasize that you are incorporating strength training to improve her overall performance. A benefit of performance improvement in the long run is injury prevention. Your daughter is capable of training and getting stronger, faster, and overall better at her sport! This is what she should be focused on, and we can empower her to focus on playing her best with confidence.

Erica wants to remind moms that as much as we would like to wrap our daughter up in bubble wrap and keep her protected from any potential injury, we can’t! Injury can’t be fully prevented, even when we might try everything we can to stop it from happening. No matter what happens, prevention methods such as time spent on strength training is never wasted time or effort.


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