The 2012 Summer Olympics in London more than lived up to the hype, and for women athletes there were plenty of golden moments.  With all due respect to US swimmer Michael Phelps’ triumph as the most decorated athlete in Olympic history, this was a Games Where Women Ruled.

The gold medal success of the Women’s Gymnastics Team, the championship three-peat of beach volleyball greats Misty May Treanor and Kerri Walsh, the introduction of women’s boxing to the Olympics with a middleweight gold medal going to American teen-ager Claressa Shields, and the dominance of women speedsters like Austin’s Sandra Richards Ross gave Americans
everywhere reason to cheer and celebrate sport and competition.

Of course, with all the events at the Summer Olympics, many sports were relegated to little or no prime-time coverage (team
handball and synchronized swimming, for example) whether they featured women or not. One sport growing in popularity every year is BMX racing, which became an Olympic medal sport in 2008.

You may not have caught it at the Olympics, but I see many teens and young adults in my practice who take part in this form of off-road bicycling known for its speed, jumps and, all-too-often, injuries. Girls and young women in particular are taking up the sport, as evidenced by the number of BMX riders who come, sometimes limping, into the office.

BMX rider Arielle Martin of Utah sustained life-threatening injuries in a training that prevented her from competing in the London Olympics, where she was considered a favorite to medal. She had three surgeries to treat a collapsed lung and severely lacerated liver she suffered in an accident when her chain broke during an Olympic qualifying training run in Chula Vista, Calif.

That may have been a “freak” accident but injuries come with the territory for BMX riders. It’s a traumatic sport punctuated by falls and crashes, and which demands upper-body strength. For girls, the dangers of BMX racing may be even more prevalent because muscles needed to really be in control in competitive off-road bicycling are often underdeveloped.

So if you are a girl or young women involved in BMX racing, there are some parts of the body you should really work out to help you control your vehicle and minimize risk of injury.

Dislocated shoulders are a common injury so I would emphasize exercises that strengthen that area. The scapular stabilizers are an excellent place to start. The scapula stabilizers keep the shoulder joints and shoulder blades here they are supposed to be while moving your arms and torso. Rotator cuffs, connective tissues that hold the shoulder joints and muscles together and rhomboids are all part of this area.

These are small muscles but very important. Many exercises for strengthening the scapular stabilizers don’t require much more than resistance bands, although you may be more comfortable working out with dumbbells or machines.

• Shoulder shrugs

• Prone rowing or bench rows

• Seated rows with scapular pinch

• Low row

• Push-ups with a plus: wall, table-top, floor

• Bench with a plus

• Chair press-ups

• Sitting or standing fly’s

• Lat pull downs

You should start with very light weights and a lot of repetitions to build up the strength and endurance. After a couple of weeks of steady workouts (3 times a week) you can increase the weight and lower the
number of reps to build strength.

The exercise ball also can be used to help strengthen the scapular stabilizers. Lie face down on the ball with small weights in your hands and lift up pinching the shoulder blades. Three sets of 10 reps with little more than 1-3 pound weights will do the trick.

Leg exercises also are very important to build the quads. We will go into detail about some of those areas in the next column.

BMX riders are a fearless lot who seemingly don’t feel pain. But you can keep the sport exciting and fun if you work on maintaining the real machine – your body – and putting it in the best shape
possible for injury-free riding.

Have fun!