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'Safe Soccer' Important for Girls.

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Most of the women also complained of problems with the injured knee that affected their quality of life, and these symptoms were not related to whether the women had had surgery. The women were an average of 31 years old at the time of follow-up.

"The only way to prevent subsequent arthritis is to prevent the injury," Roos says. "Preventing arthritis after the injury can't happen." Because the number in the study was relatively small, investigators would have to conduct a larger study to verify the findings, he says

And in the United States, where so many female soccer players are in elementary and middle school, it may be particularly important to follow the girls and young women who have these injuries, Roos says.

The solution is not to go back to a time when a woman athlete was a rarity, he stresses. "The goal is not to exclude women from soccer," Roos tells WebMD. "However, some precautions are required. We don't want to put women athletes at risk for [osteoarthritis]." For example, balancing exercises are known to strengthen the knees and therefore are thought to help protect them from injuries such as ligament tears.

"Athletic activity has more benefits than risks for both boys and girls," David Felsen, MD, MPH, tells WebMD. "The way to prevent these injuries is not to discourage women's participation in sports." Preventive exercises and caution for women are in order, however, he says. Felsen is an associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine.

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