Friday, November 24, 2006

The Achilles Knee

Hey Folks,

Here's another controversial topic that might get the commenting juices going. The topic is should women play Ultimate. The disclaimer is this topic is nothing to do with athletic skill or right to play; I believe Ultimate is the best co-ed sport, because both men and women are weapons of attack on the field. The debate is more related to the number of injuries that I see women have. This is mainly knee injuries. I just wonder if the sport is healthy for women (later topic will deal with men), or are these feeling statistically justified.

Pictured Above: Lexi Marsh (Torontula) throwing past a Queens player at CUUC 2006.

I guess the points I'm wondering about are:
  1. How likely is it for a women to get injured?
  2. What is life like after the injury?
  3. Is it worth it?
I'm going to base all my stats on one article about women and knee injuries (bad research), but this article provides both a summary of a study and some exercises to prevent knee injuries. I chose the knee, because I feel it's the Achilles heal for females playing Ultimate, and I don't supply multiple pieces of research because I'm feeling lazy.

So, with respect to question 1, the stats from the article state that of 100 000 college women, 10% of those athletes will get a knee injury in a year (men have approximately a 3% chance). I don't know how people feel about 10%, but to me those type of odds are not good for me. Even the 3% chance doesn't thrill me, and that's just for a knee injury.

As for 2, most people I've met, who have blown their knees, recover after about two years of hard work. Most don't have the same skills as before unless they injured themselves as a teenager. However, they can still play sports at about 90% of their original strength, and the remaining 10% seems to be associated with fear of re-injury. So the pain, suffering, and recovery don't seem to be major (of course I've never gone through this process).

Finally, looking at 3, is it worth it. We are talking about Ultimate and Ultimate junkies, so many of us right off the top would say, "yes, it is worth it". This all depends on how many years you've played Ultimate.

I think the best approach is to tell people what they are getting into, and as a women's coach, get them doing some strength training right off the back to prevent future disasters. Anecdotally, most of the knee injuries I know of come from indoor Ultimate.



higy said...

How much does that 10% compare to other sports ie soccer?

Is it much higher?

Jeters said...

To Higy,

As insightful as ever. Those are just general sports.

Maybe the sport choice should be changed severely


Gambler said...

IMO, the greater chance for knee injuries among women playing sports like ultimate shouldn't preclude women from playing, but rather should inform their work-out regimens. Strengthening the right muscles can go a long way towards preventing injuries.

Jeters said...

Hey Gambler,

Hopefully, the article provided is a good start for protecting the knee. I agree, but it's fun to have these discussions.


Anonymous said...

ACL/MCL injuries are more frequent in women in any sport. Does this mean they shouldn't play sports? Probably not.

A lot of it has to do with the fact that women don't bend their knees as much as men (I forget the number, but that takes a ridiculous amount of force off of the knee). THe wider hips have something to do with it to, I think i pulls on the IT band. It seems that training to strengthen the knees is pretty easy and definitely worthwhile.

Abbie said...

When I worked in the ski industry, they showed employees a video on how not to blow out your knee - it was a UVM analysis of the mechanics invovled in (skiing) knee injuries, I believe. They identified 6 factors (all body position/movement) that, when present altogether, pretty much guaranteed an ACL tear. A study showed that ski industry employees had reduced on (and off) the job knee injuries by a huge factor - just from being educated on the body mechanics involved in the majority ACL tears. Now, had I applied those same principles to Ultimate, I would not have had my ACL injury. I would not claim, of course, that it could never happen again... still, having greater awareness of what the body won't do, in combination with better preventative training (as others have mentioned above) - in particular, strengthening the stabilizers - might go a long way in reducing knee injuries in women's sports.