Female college athletes often push their bodies in order to reach their peak performance, often causing them fatigue and unfortunately sometimes injuries.
Scott Brickett has been in the athletic training profession for 10 years now, five of those being spent here at the University of Tampa as the head trainer.
“The most common injuries that I see in female athletes are lumbar strains (back strains) and ankle sprains. The most serious though would have to be ACL tears and concussions,” Brickett said.
Bobby Johnston, former head coach of the UT women’s soccer team, had to deal with his fair share of injuries to past and current players. Throughout his five years at UT, his team was regularly affected from athletic injuries.
“Injuries can impact the depth of your team, formations and style of play, but they also give other players the opportunity to step up their game,” Johnston said.
At the levels that these athletes train, there is a good chance injuries can occur because they’re not allowing their bodies the proper rest time, he said.
“The majority of athletes get hurt from being tired. The better physical condition that you’re in when entering into your season, the less you will have to worry about. If you’re fatigued, allow your body to rest,” Brickett said.
There are some prevention methods other than rest used to reduce injury occurrences, but none that will completely eliminate the chance of an injury.
Exercises such as biomechanics, reconditioning drills and proper mechanical loading on lower extremities help strengthen the anterior cruciate ligament. This ligament, referred to as the ACL, is commonly torn in female athletes due to the wideness of their hips and pelvic bone as well as fatigue.
“With ACL tears trainers are not permitted to release you before five to six months,” Brickett said. “This is the healing time required for the graft to fully repair itself.”
With serious injuries like an ACL tear, surgery is required in addition to intense rehabilitation sessions after recovery. This is often the period of time where athletes will push themselves too hard in rehab, possibly causing the ligament to re-tear.
“It’s good for athletes to push themselves as hard as possible, but they must operate within the limits of the protocol,” Brickett said.
Trainers encourage those athletes who are recovering from surgery and planning on starting rehabilitation three weeks after to take their time and progress at their own rate with physical activity. There will be athletes who will see improvement in shorter amounts of time in comparison to others, but this is only because they went into surgery in better shape.
“Everyone is different when it comes to recovery time, but usually those individuals who go into surgery in great shape will heal quicker than most,” Brickett said.
With the help of physical therapists as well as strength and conditioning coaches such as UT’s Raphael Ruiz, athletes are recovering with the same level of strength they started with before they were even injured. Although they may not posses the mental confidence immediately following their release, physically they’ll be able to perform.
“Many of the female athletes that come to me for therapy or rehab usually are coming back from ACL tears but are far enough along that they’re capable of the basics such as walking, jumping and running. My job is to strengthen those basic qualities with exercises involving resistance and using their own body weight when planting and cutting,” Ruiz said.
These female athletes who have been injured or are in the process of recovering often find it hard to stay motivated in order to get back on their feet. Courtney Evans, a member of the UT women’s soccer team, tore her ACL when she was 18-years-old but continues to play after her complete recovery.
“When I tore my ACL I was devastated because I knew it was going to be six months before I was going to get to play again. Rehab was painful and it was hard to stay positive, but with the help of my teammates and my love for the sport, everything turned out pretty good,” Evans said.