In 2011, Naomi Kutin broke a world powerlifting record, squatting 215 lbs. She was in the 97 lbs weight clas…and was just nine years old. She broke a record previously held by a 44 year old German woman. Since then, Naomi has become a prodigy with the nickname “Supergirl” in the lifting community. Now, at 16, she has continued to astound, deadlifting 365 lbs in the last Pan American Championships with Team USA.
As you look at your own daughter, you’re probably thinking, “Thank goodness my daughter wants to play softball… “Aren’t girls like Naomi a special case?” And…most importantly, “Is what Naomi doing in that video EVEN SAFE???” As parents, coaches, trainers…we all walk a fine line. We want to keep young athletes from the life-long consequences of injury but we still want to help them be their best. Especially if they LOVE their sport. No one wants to put out the fire of a young athlete. But when is it our responsibility to draw the line? How can we prepare our young athletes for the risks of their sport?
Until recently, strength training and young athletes has been a taboo subject. Even more so for females. Most parents have no problems signing their daughter up for softball or soccer, but strength training? It just doesn’t happen that easily. Here’s the problem: Our girls are getting hurt. In soccer. In softball. In volleyball. And, our girls are getting hurt more often- and worse -than our boys.
With more females participating in sports over the last decade, science has devoted a greater focus to female athletes and their development. Currently, data for gender-matched sports show females present a higher incidence of injuries than male athletes. And when we think about it….it makes sense!!! We KNOW that male athletes have more muscle mass and a baseline of strength due to their hormonal makeup (hello higher testosterone!).
YET in gender-matched sports with similar rules (ie softball/ baseball, basketball, soccer, lacrosse, volleyball, etc), males and females are exposed to the SAME FORCES on the field or court. But we keep throwing our comparatively weaker females on to this field or court.
It’s no wonder our female athletes keep getting injured!
Girls are seeing an increase in injury in sports, particularly
- stress fractures,
- ACL tears,
- and other knee injuries like PFPS (patellofemoral pain syndrome)
What’s the solution? How can we prepare young female athletes for a healthy athletic career?
The science is clear: strength training is not just a necessary training tool for football players; it is a necessary tool for all ATHLETES to help prepare their bodies for the forces imposed in sport. And based on the current research, it is CRUCIAL we start making strength training a PRIORITY for today’s female athlete. (1)
In this article we are going to discuss:
- When should females begin strength training programs
- The ‘neuromuscular spurt’ girls need for athletic development
- Common injuries and training techniques that reduce risk
- How CULTURE has created a dangerous myth surrounding strength training for girls
“The young bodies of modern day youth are often ill prepared to tolerate the demands of sports or physical activity.”
Contributed by: Emily R Pappas, MS Exercise Physiology