By Kristine Sorensen

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Fall sports are in full swing and with that comes injuries. But, did you know female high school athletes have higher injury rates and risks than their male counterparts?

Female athletes experience higher rates of specific musculoskeletal injuries, particularly affecting knees and shoulders.

According to the CDC, girls are 8 times more likely to suffer an ACL injury than boys. In fact, in one year, more than 46,000 female athletes age 19 and younger experienced an ACL sprain or strain, and 30,000 required reconstructive surgery.

The good thing is that research shows these injuries can be prevented, and a big event coming up this month called Lillian Abell is teaching girls how to do just that.

Michaela Lamont and Karina Latsko, seniors at Seneca Valley High School, attended the event last year. Michaela participates in track and basketball, and Karinia plays volleyball and lacrosse.

This season, they’re putting into practice what they, and several hundred female athletes, learned at the Lillian Abell event last year.

Mount Lebanon mom Michelle Leibow started the program.

“Our bodies are different. Our minds are different. How we eat is different. Our injury risk is different, and I don’t know that anyone is talking to parents and athletes about this,” she says.

That’s why she founded the program last year.

This year’s seminar is Thursday, Oct. 20 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the A.J. Palumbo Center at Duquesne University.

The middle and high school athletes learned that because girls’ bodies and hormones are different, they move differently. Estrogen loosens their joints so they have to strengthen.

Wider hips mean they often land on one, not two feet, so they learn how to adapt and land safely.

“Our hamstrings and hips tend to be weaker, so when we land, the front of our legs will go over our knees so that’s what causes that tearing motion,” Latsko learned at the event last year.

Now, she strengthens her hamstrings and hips to prevent a knee injury.

At the Lillian Abell event, each athlete is analyzed by a UPMC athletic trainer for her specific physiological differences and risks and what to do about them.

“My knees tend to go in more. It’s just how my mechanics are made. So, that’s one significant thing I really notice,” Lamont says.

She followed up with a free UPMC training session after the event, where she learned more exercises to strengthen her specific muscles to prevent injury.

In addition to lessons on physiology, students also learn about nutrition, social media, the mental game and collegiate athletics. Seneca Valley Athletic Director Heather Lewis was one of the speakers at the event last year. She will speak again this year.

“When I first started here 5 years ago, I was surprised how many girls didn’t think about playing college sports, and I stressed to them what they take from that can benefit them the rest of their life,” she said. “I’m a believer in sport. I’m a believer in the character and leadership it gives you.”

Lewis and speakers from around the country help the athletes focus on the mental aspect of sports as well. Latsko and Lamont both carry those lessons with them today.

“When you are positive, it shows,” Lamont says. “It’s a radiant light. It shows to everyone else around you. If your teammate is down and you’re positive, it will bring them up.”

You can learn more about attending this year’s Lillian Abell event at Duquesne University by clicking here.

It’s $35/person.

Many schools are counting it as an excused absence because of the educational value of the program.

Because it was so successful last year, male athletes and coaches asked for a program as well. That even will happen on Wednesday, Oct. 19.

Because parents want to know the same information to help their children, there’s a special free session for parents, coaches and adults on Thursday, Oct. 27.

You can also go to to learn more about this and many more positive events in our community for kids and families.

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