FLOSSMOOR, Illinois - Homewood-Flossmoor High School junior Maya Harrel loves sports and plays basketball, soccer, volleyball and runs track. But she was almost permanently sidelined by a basketball injury her freshman year.
While attending a private boarding school her freshman year, Maya tore her anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and injured her meniscus playing basketball. Maya's trainer at the school was unconcerned about the injury, but Maya's mother, Lisa Harrel remembered the advice of board-certified Franciscan Physician Network pediatrician Francine Pearce, MD.
"Dr. Pearce had talked to us about preventing ACL tears," Lisa said, "But at the time I assumed that was just for soccer players."
When the Flossmoor, Illinois, resident showed Dr. Pearce a video of her daughter's injury, she immediately referred Maya to Specialty Physicians of Illinois, LLC, orthopedic surgeon, William Payne, MD.
"If Maya had a different pediatrician we would have listened to her trainer," Lisa said. "This could have had a much different outcome."
Dr. Pearce explained that girls use a different group of muscles than boys.
"There tends to be a lot of imbalance in strength in those muscles, which makes them more prone to injury," Dr. Pearce said.
Hormones are a second consideration. During menstruation, girls release hormones such as estrogen and relaxin. This causes laxity or looseness of the ligaments and makes them more prone to injury.
According to Dr. Pearce, girls are more likely to tear their ACL than boys and are also more likely to sprain their ankles.
"Don't assume your daughters' coaches know this," Dr. Pearce said. "Parents must be proactive about ensuring their daughters' coaches fully understand these issues."
Dr. Pearce recommends that girls participate in training that strengthens muscles and stretches their hamstrings. Girls should also take part in agility training where they learn to properly run and shift directions, as well as strengthen their core muscles.
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