The number of female adolescents participating in school sports has increased significantly.
Allowing more female adolescent athletes to experience the positive effects of sports participation. Girls start participating in sports at a later age, and by age 14, drop out of sports at twice the rate of their male counterparts. Girls are more vulnerable to poor physical literacy, which is defined as both the ability and drive to be “physically active for life.”
There are numerous health-related concerns that are unique to the female athlete, including iron deficiency anemia, stress urinary incontinence, breast issues, amenorrhea, osteopenia and increased rates of certain musculoskeletal injuries. Additionally, girls experience several physical changes during puberty, such as increases in body mass and height, the onset of menstruation and decreased strength. These anatomical and physiological changes may impact sports participation and be a source of emotional stress. Female athletes are at higher risk for certain musculoskeletal injuries including ACL tears, patellofemoral pain syndrome, stress fractures and the female athlete triad.
Female athletes benefit most from strength and conditioning programs that are incorporated into training before the onset of puberty. Implementing programs during this stage of growth most effectively builds muscle mass, which can improve performance and minimize the risk of injuries. It is critical that an adequately trained professional supervise strength and conditioning programs to ensure appropriate technique.
Strength and conditioning programs improve athletic performance, decrease injury rates and enhance lifelong fitness levels in female athletes. Strength and conditioning programs should, however, be tailored to the athlete’s sex and developmental level. Therefore, coaches should be encouraged to obtain the appropriate training and certification to be able to successfully design and implement S&C programs for both female and male athletes.
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