Growing pains, changing bodies, and hormones.
Adolescence is a time of major girl turmoil. Bodies grow outward and upward, muscles and joints try to adapt, and hormones are the cherry on top. These changes can wreak havoc on girls’ participation in sports and healthy physical activity. But we want to keep girls in the game!
When sports hurt, girls are more likely to quit, believing they’re not ‘athletic’.
There is no such thing as an ‘athletic’ or an ‘unathletic type’. Everyone has the ability to be athletic in their own way. If physical problems are addressed in adolescence, women will continue to be active throughout the lifespan.
4 problems that hold girls back from physical activity
Osgood-Schlatter’s knee pain and Sever’s ankle pain can be debilitating.
Rapid growth in adolescence changes the tension and stress put through bones, joints, and muscles. Conditions like Osgood-Schlatter’s and Sever’s occur due to increased stress through growth plates. Getting taller stretches muscles and tendons creating increased pull (tension). Increased weight means more load (stress) through joints and ligaments. What’s the good news? Improving strength, flexibility, and stability decreases tension and stress. (See a women’s physical therapist!)
Frequent sprains, strains or injuries keep girls out of the game.
During adolescence, muscles work hard to support growing bodies. This makes them more likely to be tight and stiff with an increased risk of muscle strains. It can also change how well they stabilize joints. Less stability means less support with an increased risk of joint sprains. On top of that, hormones have been shown to make ACL & other knee injuries more likely. But no fear! All things that can be handled with strength, flexibility, and stability (again, see a women’s physical therapist!)
Periods are uncomfortable and tough to navigate.
Periods can come and go unexpectedly in adolescence. This makes it hard for girls to plan whether they’ll need a panty liner or a super heavy tampon to get through soccer practice or a volleyball game without embarrassment. Plus cramps and bloating make bodies uncomfortable. Girls should be encouraged to keep exercising through the discomfort because physical activity diverts the body’s attention away from the uterus and towards moving muscles (less cramping). It improves gut motility (less bloating). There are TONS of benefits to staying active during periods, girls just need encouragement and guidance to navigate all the things and find what works best for their bodies.
Changing bodies are awkward and uncoordinated.
Growing taller, increasing weight, and developing ‘womanly bodies’ means brains have to change how movement is processed. That means adolescent bodies are adapting new movement strategies to avoid stubbing larger toes, hitting taller heads, or bruising longer arms. It can make girls look and feel super awkward and unathletic. Coordinating movements is what physical therapists call proprioception. It’s how bodies decide the best way to move within any environment. More good news – also something that can improve with physical therapy!
Stop ankle & knee pain in adolescents to keep girls moving as adults.
Learning great movement strategies at an early age keeps girls in the game and off the sidelines. The more girls feel ‘athletic’ and comfortable moving, the more likely they are to keep up with physical activity as adults. Wouldn’t it be amazing if all women & girls felt inspired to live a vibrant, energetic & active life?!