WOMEN'S ATHLETICS: History Of Knee Injuries #3.

The growth of women's athletics has seen the explosion in participation of women of all ages in previously male-dominated sports. Learn why so many women are having injuries and how to prevent them!
All Articles Are Republished With Permission From Intensitymagazine.com

" "Practice doesn't make perfect, Practice makes permanent. "
Tommy Kono
Olympic Champion, Mr. Universe

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Click HERE To Read Part Six!
Click HERE To Read Part Seven!

So far we have seen that there has always been exceptional women athletes in every generation. Up until 1972 and Title IX, women athletes were the exception rather than the rule (1 out of 27 participating in athletics before 1972, today 1 out of 2.5). With the leveling of the play field, so to speak, in equal access and teams since Title IX, women's athletics has grown tremendously. With it has come a disproportionate increase of knee injuries compared to male athletes.

We examined the factors, intrinsic and extrinsic, and decided in our plan of attack to concentrate on the extrinsic factors-those changeable and trainable factors such as muscle imbalances; jumping, running, cutting mechanics and agility, body position and overall fitness.

We are now at the formulation and design stage of our training. Incorporating the known extrinsic factors and their "prehabilitation," to use a buzzword, training and conditioning we have the following:


Save Our Athlete's Knee Seminar With most athletes, the noncontact injuries to the ACL occur when either landing from a jump, decelerating, or changing directions. The causes could be such factors as soft tissues not trained for deceleration and/or rotational forces, improper absorption of ground forces through ligaments versus the muscles, muscle imbalances between quadriceps and hamstrings that stabilize the knee, and lack of overall fitness which could result in fatigue, both mentally and physically(see Part III).

The acronym SOAKS will comprise the spokes of our training wheel-Stability, Overall Fitness, Agility, Kinesthetics, Strength.


Being steady or balanced. Referring to the statement in Part II about men using muscles versus women using ligaments and overall instability in landing and cutting maneuvers, our training and conditioning will concentrate on using the muscles of the legs to absorb impact forces by jump and landing training, proper athletic position, and unilateral balancing.

Overall Fitness

"Fitness may be defined as the ability to cope with the demands of a specific task efficiently and safely."[1] Today's athletes are defined by a preponderance of muscle hypertrophy and instead end up being overweight and under fit for their sport. The overall fitness and work capacity of the female athlete will be increased by General Physical Preparation (GPP). GPP is intended to provide balanced physical conditioning in endurance, strength, speed, flexibility and other basic factors of fitness.[2] This is different from Specialized Physical Preparation (SPP) which is unique to the event in which the athlete participate, i.e., game skills and conditioning.

Too often the younger athlete specializes in one sport to the exclusion of an overall base of participation in a variety of activities (see Babe Didrikson and Part II). Simple skills such as jumping rope, hop scotch (plyometrics by American definitions), running and playing on the playground, and tag are lost to the younger generation who want to be the next soccer or basketball superstar. Training and conditioning will consist of weighted and non-weighted calisthenics, rope jumping, old-fashioned strength endurance activities and flexibility training.


The ability to change body positions, quickly and easily. The female athlete needs to be able to run, jump, change directions, and stop, without the fear of injury, to be able to make the play in her sport whether it is a crossing shot in soccer, a fastbreak in basketball, or a pivot and slam in volleyball. Training and conditioning will consist of agility drills with emphasis on proper athletic form.


"A sense mediated by nervous elements in muscles, tendons, and joints and stimulated by bodily movements and tensions, sensory experience derive from this source."[3]

To be a great athlete, the female must have an awareness of where she is at all times on the playing field-a court sense. All the greats have it: Chris Evert, Mia Hamm, Cheryl Swopes, Babe Didrikson, Billie Jean King. Training and conditioning will consist of proper athletic stance, proper running and cutting form, and balance training.


"The ability of a given group of muscles to generate muscular force under specific conditions."[4] There are many different types of strength applicable to the athlete-maximal strength, speed-strength, strength-speed, static strength, strength endurance. Most if not all will be address in the SPP phase and offseason. What we are training is the strength balance of the muscle groups that stabilize the knee, the quads and hamstrings.

Most training programs for athletic training have the squat as the main focus in the lower body portion with a few leg curls thrown for a "balanced" program. We will concentrate on the posterior chain, the hamstrings, gluteals, and lower back. Lack of strength and balance in female athletes between the quads and abs versus the hamstring and lower back may result in training injuries and/or place the knee in a compromising position.

Our mirror-dominated, bodybuilding-oriented training philosophies place a premium on what you can see in the mirror and sometimes neglect the power center of the body-the posterior chain. Training and conditioning will consist of on-the-field and weight room techniques to achieve the balance necessary to possibly prevent injuries.

The SOAKS Program

The SOAKS PROGRAM will be patterned on the Renegade Training System for format. The techniques and exercises will be able to be integrated into the warm-up, both on the field and in the weight room. The program will be best at the 6 week length but can be adjusted from 2-10 weeks based on the preseason length, schedules of athletes, etc.

The SOAKS Program should be revisited at least once a year in the training cycle with attention to details of body movements, running, jumping and cutting mechanics.

Special attention will be given to correct athletic stance and body position in running, cutting, stopping and jumping for movement efficiency and reducing impact forces. Posterior chain training will reduce muscle imbalances between hamstrings and quads.[5] Agility, flexibility, and balance training will enhance stability and proprioception [kinesthetic awareness].

Overall fitness will be addressed by GPP. And most importantly, the program will be challenging with the emphasis on fun, accomplishment, encouragement and hard work because if the athletes don't have fun and see results they won't "Just Do It!"

Looking Ahead

Next we will outline the program and start on the drills and exercises.

Click HERE To Read Part One!
Click HERE To Read Part Two!
Click HERE To Read Part Four!
Click HERE To Read Part Five!
Click HERE To Read Part Six!
Click HERE To Read Part Seven!


  1. Supertraining, Mel Siff, PhD, Supertraining Institute, 2000, p.32
  2. Supertraining, ibid, p.315.
  3. Merriam-Webster Dictionary, Pocket Books, 1997, p.392
  4. Supertraining, op cit, p.1.
  5. Essentials of Strength and Conditioning, Thomas R. Baechle, 1st edition, 1994, p.426

Charlie Newkerk