As the fall sports season gets underway, many student athletes are gearing up for competition. But for a student athlete with a pre-existing injury, this is a season of caution.
That concern rings especially true in female athletes, who are biologically more susceptible to serious injuries than their male counterparts. That’s why Shriners Hospitals for Children founded the Female Initiative: Evaluation and Rehabilitation Care Excellence, or FIERCE, program. With 22 locations across the United States, Canada and Mexico, Shriners Hospitals for Children improves the lives of children in a family-centered environment. The FIERCE program is just one more example of their dedication to children’s medicine.
In its first year alone,the FIERCE program has worked with female athletes 18 years and under to treat and pre- vent sports injuries, focusing on the biomechanical differences in the female body with all-female staff.
The program’s director, pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dr. Corinna Franklin, told us more.
Why is there a need for a program like FIERCE?
Female athletes have different needs than male athletes, as they are often more susceptible to ACL tears or other injuries. We developed a program that is unique to female athletes and their injuries. These days, when an athlete finds a sport they will focus specifically on that sport for a long time. Girls are getting into many sports like gymnastics and soccer at a very young age and continuing that into adulthood. We see athletes with a wide variety of injuries, but we also consult with athletes or their families about injury prevention.
Do you see any common injuries with female athletes?
ACL injuries tend to occur through cutting and pivoting motions, in sports like soccer and basketball. Stress fractures happen in long distance running as well as in gymnastics and dance. Soccer can be a big concussion generator for women, but any contact sport can cause a concussion. Our physical medicine and rehabilitation physician Dr. Bethany Lipa is able to review and treat concussions.
What are some prevention techniques in place at FIERCE?
There is always a physical therapist, a nutritionist and physical medicine and rehabilitation physician on staff and in the FIERCE clinic. We’re more than happy to go over any concerns that patients have, and we are fully equipped to handle any questions that come up. We also have an education day that’s specifically about injury prevention, where we have educational sessions to discuss injury prevention and nutritional education as well.
Tell us about FIERCE’s Motion Analysis Laboratory.
We have a full motion analysis lab that we can use to help in several ways. We use it when an injured athlete is ready to return to sports, to see that they are biomechanically ready. We’ll also use it when athletes have a particular question about their biomechanics.
How are the athletes finding the benefits of FIERCE?
Our female athletes have found it pretty helpful to find a place where they can speak to an all-female staff. Many of us were athletes at that age and they have found it easy to connect to discuss not just their injuries, but nutrition and prevention as well.
How can an athlete get back into the fall season safely?
You want to make sure that athletes are pursuing a balanced fitness pro- gram and taking time to rest. In pro- grams that are getting ready for the fall season now athletes should be looking at cross training. We’re able to make suggestions for their training reg- imen to help avoid injury. We have two physical therapists in our clinic and they are able to treat patients long- term but can also go over safe lifting techniques and appropriate training techniques. Athletes spend a lot of time training, and their nutritional needs are very different, so we also talk about their nutritional needs.
Is now a good time for female athletes to look into injury prevention?
This is a really exciting time for women’s sports, and girls are picking up on that. We’ve seen a lot of really successful female American athletes right now. It’s a great time for girls to get into sports and competition.
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Published (and copyrighted) in Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 7, Issue 5 (July, 2016).
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