5 common sports injuries in young female athletes

Know how to prevent and treat common sports injuries in girls and young women

More girls than ever are hitting the gym, the field, the track, the rink — many at elite levels. Not surprisingly, as the number of girls and young women participating in sports goes up, so does the number of injuries. Without the right diet and conditioning — and sometimes even when following ideal training regimens — young athletes can fall prey to the same injuries that affect adult athletes. Savvy coaches and parents will monitor athletes under their supervision to avoid injury. But when an injury does happen, it's important to know how to intervene quickly to help ensure a healthy recovery.

Prevention is the best medicine

Studies show that injury prevention programs (IPPs) really work. Although these programs vary widely, depending on the sport and the participant's age, IPPs typically focus on developing and strengthening key muscles; improving movement patterns, sport technique and balance; and avoiding common errors. Parents of young female athletes should talk with coaches and trainers about what IPPs are in place.

Good nutrition plays a critical role, too. Beyond a healthy, balanced diet, girls and young women might also need supplemental vitamins and minerals to stay in peak condition. Some nutritional supplements have been shown to improve performance.

Two supplemental nutrients in particular are important to consider:

  • Calcium. Some girls and young women, concerned with maintaining an ideal weight or "being thin," avoid eating higher calorie dairy products. But this can lead to a lack of adequate calcium intake. Athletes under age 18 should get 1,300 milligrams (mg) of calcium daily, while those over age 18 should aim for 1,000 mg a day. Food sources of calcium include dairy products, almonds, broccoli, kale, canned salmon with bones, sardines and soy products such as tofu.
  • Iron. Because of menstrual blood loss, girls and young women can be at higher risk of iron deficiency, which affects both sports endurance and performance. Vegetarians also can be at higher risk, since red meat is a top source of dietary iron. Nuts, beans, seafood and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale are other iron-rich foods. Young athletes should be screened regularly, with a simple blood test, to detect iron deficiency.
Nov. 04, 2016 See more In-depth