New data shows jump in sports injuries for young girls

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New Medibank data shows an increase in sports-related claims for girls, with more young women tackling contact sports such as Australian rules football and soccer.

The company's data shows a 52 percent increase in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) repairs for girls aged 10 to 14 years since 2012. It shows a 31 percent increase for those aged 10 to 19. There was almost 20 per cent fewer claims for ACL repairs compared to boys aged 10 to 19.

The ACL plays an important role in keeping the knee stable. Tears or sprains to the ligament can be debilitating and painful. They often occur while playing sport. Treatment for an ACL injury includes physical therapy and surgery.

According to Medibank chief medical officer Dr Linda Swan, parents and coaches must help ensure children are warming up properly, to reduce the risk of injury.

“It’s great to see children and teenagers being active and playing team sports, however we don’t want to see children hospitalised with injuries that could have been avoided. They’re also looking at lengthy rehabilitation and time on the bench,” said Dr Swan.

The new Medibank data also shows since 2015 mouthguard claims for teenage girls have jumped 20 percent. 

During the same period, claims for boys increased by only 8 percent. Most mouthguards are claimed by parents in March, marking the start of the school sport season, with Medibank records showing peak hospital admissions for ACL repairs occur during June and July.

This new data mirrors the rise in women playing contact sport.

The Australian Football League (AFL) reported a 19 per cent increase in female participation across the sport in 2016 and a 21 per cent increase in girls playing AFL ‘Auskick’.

Dr Swan said it’s important to have the right protective gear when playing sport.

“Parents need to ensure children have protective gear such as mouthguards. Any injury is painful and frustrating, but dental injuries can be very expensive to fix,” added Dr Swan.

Medibank Better Health Foundation has partnered with The Centre for Sport and Social Impact at La Trobe University in Melbourne to better understand injury prevention programs for adolescent female soccer players. 

Researchers found teenage girls participating in soccer has increased dramatically. Evidence suggests they are four times more likely to sustain knee injuries than male players. 

The research, recently published in the prestigious International Journal of Sports Science and Coaching, found better education of coaches and players is critical with government health agencies and sporting bodies needing to recognise the future health implications of ACL injuries for children.

This project, conducted in partnership with the Football Federation of Victoria and FIFA, received $60,826 in funding from the Medibank Better Health Foundation.