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The Uneven Playing Field

Original post made by SUMD, Stanford, on May 9, 2008

The A.C.L. is a small, rubber-band-like fiber, no bigger than a little finger, that attaches to the femur in the upper leg and the tibia in the lower leg and stabilizes the knee. When it ruptures, the reconstructive surgery is complicated and the rehabilitation painful and long.

Some researchers believe that in sports that both sexes play, and with similar rules — soccer, basketball, volleyball — female athletes rupture their A.C.L.’s at rates as high as five times that of males.

Example--She had undergone, by her count, five operations on her right knee. Her mother counted eight, and believed that Amy did not put certain minor cuttings in the category of actual operations. She was done playing.

She had been told she would need a knee replacement, maybe by the time she turned 30.

Amy told me about her final operation, recalling that when she came out of anesthesia, the surgeon seemed as if he was going to cry. He looked at her in silence for what seemed like a long time, trying to compose himself. Finally, he told her, “Amy, there was nothing in there left to fix.”Web Link

Comments (7)

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Posted by jr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 9, 2008 at 5:00 pm

Thanks for the link, it is a fascinating and tragic article.

Imagine having to have a knee replaced before you are 30?

And the problem is not just crippling ACL injuries

There is also an alarmingly high level of concussions and spine injuries among young women playing these "contact" sports for which they are physiologically and hormonally vulnerable.

Unfortunately there does not seem to any solution short of helmets for the head injuries. Studies have shown that heading the ball can cause brain damage and that girls are more vulnerable because of weaker neck muscle -- maybe this activity should be banned in womens soccer-- a crippled knee or back is bad enough but a crippled brain is a much worse tragedy.

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Posted by Patti
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 9, 2008 at 8:09 pm

Girls are not boys. Title IX is a big mistake, because it allows for coaches and parents and feminists to demand that girls become like boys. Girls should be encouraged to express their inherent femininity. As a woman, I know this from my own life and feelings. My father wanted me to be a great athlete, becasue he did not have sons, and Title IX gave him a license to force the issue. I was born with decent athletic ability, but I wanted to be a girl, not a jock. I also had a knee operation (soccer). The entire experience was a disaster. My mother could have, and should have intervened, but she was a liberated feminist type, and she was as rabid as my father about me establishing my "power".

I now have two daughters and one son. I allow my daughters to play recreational and participative sports. However, I would never allow them to join travel or elite teams (I've been there). My son can do whatever he wants to do, as long as he truly feels good about it. Boys are very different than girls, both emotionally and physically.

I have met a number of girls like me. We were forced into this absurd model, and we resent it.

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Posted by bought it all hook, line and sinker
a resident of Midtown
on May 10, 2008 at 7:24 am

Yup, feminism lost its way when the take away message became "you MUST", not "you MAY". It was all about choices for ALL humans to follow their passions, and became a matter of extreme pressure on girls and women to follow a mold.

The irony is that we were wanting to let girls and women ( and by extension, men) break out of being forced into molds, and instead we just created a new mold.

That said, try not to replicate the error back, Patti. If you have a driven daughter who really wants to do sports..let her! Or in 30 years she will resent you as much as you resent your mother.

Choices, choices, choices.


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Posted by Patti
a resident of Palo Verde
on May 10, 2008 at 12:24 pm

bought it all hook, line and sinker,

You said, "If you have a driven daughter who really wants to do sports..let her! "

First off, my answer is an emphatic "NO!". I will not allow my daughters to enter an arena that is full of agendas and alligators. I have seen it first hand, and I think it is a form of child abuse.

I wonder what you mean by a "driven daughter"? Who, or what is driving her? If she is "driven" to attract boys in high school, and she wants to wear miniskirts and show off her boobs in provacative ways, is that just a "choice" that I should encourage, or even allow?

I think daughters need to have some protection, and not be given free choice. I am my daughters' mother, so I will protect them, as I see fit. Yes, they may resent it, but at least they will not be thrown to the lions, and they will probably be able to get around, physically, when they are 40 years old, unlike so many current elite young female athletes.

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Posted by John the Man
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 11, 2008 at 12:35 am

I just turned 40. My parents didn't allow me to play sports all year round. They simply wouldn't allow it. And they ALWAYS counseled me to be careful with my body, so that when I was 40/50/60, I wouldn't think that, gee, I wish I had taken better care of my body when I was younger.

They were right.

My knees don't ache. My back doesn't ache. My hips don't ache. My friends who were total jocks in/through high school? Almost to a man/woman, they have major skeletal or joint problems. Knee and hip replacements are not that unusual... and we're all only about 40!

My parents (especialy my mom) were simply of the school of 'we don't care if you hate us for deciding this for you, but it's for your own good and you will thank your BODY for it later in life.'

Why can't more parents do that or think that way? I would think that after one ACL replacement, your kid should be done with organized sports, period. Life is too long to have to deal with the aftermath of simply one major joint injury, much less multiple ones.

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Posted by sara
a resident of Stanford
on May 12, 2008 at 1:51 pm

If you have a knee replacement by age 30 you are going to need another one by age 50, then probably a hip replacement also because of the arthritis.

I suppose there is some logic for a professional athlete on a multi million dollar contract trading off health for wealth, but for these girl and women high school and college players to continue after a concussion or ACL is the same as self mutilation and is a mental disorder that coaches and parents should not enable.

Its all very well for college womens basketball coaches to earn millions and bathe in glory as feminist icons, but they are not the ones crippled and in pain by the time they are 30, often addicted to painkillers that further reduces their economic prospects.

I think the whole spectacle is shameful

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Posted by joe
a resident of College Terrace
on May 12, 2008 at 5:28 pm

well the MDs have got to pay for theirs boats somehow

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