Female athletes are at higher risk for certain injuries. Learn how to keep yourself going strong.
Whether you are a basketball player, a gymnast, or someone who never misses a daily run, if you are a female athlete, it’s important to take extra steps to protect yourself from injury. This is because women seem to be more prone to specific injuries than men.Studies have shown that women are up to six times more likely to suffer ACL damage in the knee and three times more likely to experience stress fractures. Injuries such as ankle sprains, rotator cuff problems and plantar fasciitis are also more common in female athletes.
“I see overuse injuries more often in female athletes than in males,” said Kevin Magone, MD, a shoulder, elbow and sports medicine surgeon at Saint Joseph London. “Athletes who train all year in only one sport seem to be most at risk.”
Male vs. Female
Many experts believe a higher occurrence of female sports injuries may come down to simple anatomy. In general, women have less muscle mass and more flexibility than men. Women also have a wider pelvis, which affects the alignment of the body.Some women may also be putting themselves at greater risk by not eating healthily, particularly not eating enough. Low calorie intake can lead to a lack of nutrients, such as calcium and vitamin D, that the body needs to build strong bones and muscles. Nutrient deficiency can cause weakness and fatigue, increasing the chance of injury.
“Nutrition is key for female athletes,” Dr. Magone said. “Getting the proper intake of calories is essential to maintain a healthy weight.”
The Female Athlete Triad
When women go to extreme measures to maintain a low weight, including unhealthy eating habits and obsessive exercise, it can lead to a serious condition that has become known as the female athlete triad.
The condition has three components:
- Abnormal eating: This can take the form of excessive dieting or eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia.
- Menstrual problems: Lack of nutrition combined with high energy demands can lead to irregular or missed periods.
- Weak bones: Low bone mineral density resulting from poor eating habits and missed periods can increase the risk of broken bones and osteoporosis.
Putting Your Health First
In addition to eating a balanced diet, giving your body some downtime is essential to maintaining good health and good performance.
“Be sure to allow your body to rest between sports seasons,” Dr. Magone said. “And once you start up again after a period of rest, slowly reintroduce the activity to allow your body to properly warm up.”
Learn more about orthopedic care at CHI Saint Joseph Health.