FEMALES AT INCREASED RISK OF INJURY – TRUE OR FALSE?
By MONIQUE ROWLANDS, Physio Plus
Women’s sport has grown rapidly over the last 10 years and with this, a growing interest around gender specific injuries and prevention tools.
Injuries most commonly seen amongst women in sport:
- Shoulder – Rotator cuff/capsular overuse injuries
- Knee – ACL injuries
- Knee – Patello-femoral dysfunction
- Lower leg – Shin splints
- Foot – Plantar fasciitis
- Stress fractures
Factors associated with increased risk in females include:
- Changes in hormone levels due to menstrual cycle – alter strength of ligaments and bones
- Better range/ flexibility of joints than males due to hormonal levels
- Typically less muscle mass/strength, more body fat
- Anatomy of pelvis – generally wider compared to males changing mechanics of the knee/ankle
- Difference in lower limb mechanics results in decreased space for ACL to pass through
- Greater likelihood for inadequate nutrition with a risk of underweight athletes, especially in adolescence resulting in low vitamin and calcium levels which affects bone and ligament integrity
- Differences in running/jumping technique – more upright in pattern compared to males.
Historically it has been believed that females are more prone to injury than their male counterparts. However, when the number and type of injuries between gender are analysed in the same sport over the same amount of training/game hours (1000 hours), there is very little difference between gender. There was a small link between females and repetitive overuse injuries of the knee and ankle. This was largely due to the anatomical and hormonal differences mentioned above.
Stronger links to risk of injury were seen with type of sport – greater risk in contact vs non-contact sport. There was also a strong correlation with volume of training and hours of play, training with ideal loading and technique was a protective factor that is comparatively effective for both male and female athletes. When these factors were addressed and equal to male sports, gender difference in injury was almost non-existent.
A good medical team can assist in optimizing athletes training to reduce as many of these factors as possible. If you have questions around this topic or are experiencing increased pain during/post exercise, working with your local sports doctor or physio may just reduce your risk of injury!