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Injuries plague powderpuff season

By Nicki Chamberlain-Simon     10/28/13 7:00pm

For many students at Rice University, powderpuff is more than just a game. Every week, women across campus strap on their flags and battle for their respective residential colleges alongside coaches, spectators, water boys, referees and cheerleaders. However in addition to the fun and competition, injuries are taking a toll on players across campus.

Based on interviews with players and coaches from each powderpuff team, there have been 18 reported injuries that have prevented players from participating in at least one game or practice. Injuries have ranged from concussions and sprained ankles to torn ligaments and broken bones. 

Rice Emergency Medical Services Captain Patrick McCarthy said he has not noticed a significant change in injuries from last year to the current year.

"The powderpuff-related injuries have been pretty typical in frequency and severity," McCarthy, a Baker College senior, said. "If anything has changed, it's the higher number of calls."

While there are limitations to the amount of contact permitted on the field, the female-only version of flag football allows for more contact than the intramural flag football teams. 

According to the rules of powderpuff at Rice, "Legal blocking is from the shoulders to the waist. Receivers may be hit once by one defender within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage."

Sid Richardson College senior Rachel Tenney said she had to leave her role as quarterback after dislocating her thumb in warm-ups. Tenney said she did not think the rules were the cause of the injuries.

"When talking to most people about their injuries, they are mainly freak situations that can't be prevented by a change of rules," Tenney said. "[The injuries] happened because [the players] took a bad step when trying to juke, ran a route and mistakenly ran into another player, caught a finger on flags, or there are injuries like mine which happened in warm-ups."

One of the most common injuries for powderpuff players is a torn anterior cruciate ligament. According to powderpuff players and coaches, four women have torn their ACLs so far this season.

Dawn Stuckey, the head athletic trainer for the Rice women's soccer team, said ACL tears are not an uncommon injury for sports with a lot of back-and-forth movement. 

Stuckey, who has worked with both the soccer team and the women's basketball team, said the Owls have already had two ACL tears this year on their 25-person soccer team.

"The highest rate of injury is going to be in basketball, soccer and, say, powderpuff football, where you either have cleats on or you're back-and-forth cutting," Stuckey said. "Quick motions with cutting and planting are going to have the highest incidences

of injury."

Stuckey said the risk of an ACL tear is even greater for females who are petite, have inadequate hamstring and quadriceps strength, and have not warmed up properly. According to Stuckey, female athletes in general are more highly disposed to knee injuries because females' wider-set hips put more pressure on their knees. Stuckey said providing more on-site resources could be a good source of injury prevention. 

"A lot of intramural sports at Rice are a pretty big deal, and a lot of schools are starting to go toward hiring an athletic trainer for intramurals ...," Stuckey said. "It would cost a lot of money, but it wouldn't be a bad idea to try to petition for more sports care or even have an athletic trainer on-site for games."

Tenney said she was unable to write with her dominant hand for a week and is currently undergoing a three-month hiatus from contact sports, but she continues to support her college from the sidelines.

"I still try to make it to powderpuff practices and definitely still attend all of the Sid games, so I definitely do still believe in powderpuff as a great and fun thing," Tenney said.

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