Certain sports injuries are much more common among female athletes than their male counterparts. This includes everyone from girls participating in sports at school to professional female athletes. There are specific injuries that are more likely to occur to women, and a variety of reasons that could explain why.
The Injuries That Are More Common for Female Athletes
Many of these different sports injuries are common in both women and men, but are slightly higher among the former:
- Ankle sprains
- Knee injuries, including ACL tears and ligament damage
- Shoulder injuries, including rotator cuff problems and instability
- Stress fractures, especially in the foot or lower leg
- Plantar fasciitis (small tears in the support tissues along the arch and heel of the foot)
Why These Injuries Occur More Frequently for Female Athletes
According to experts, there are a variety of possible explanations for why these injuries could be more common among female athletes than male. However, these are closer to theories than solid, undisputed reasons. Most relate to the biological differences between men and women. For example, female sports players and athletes typically have:
A wider pelvis, altering the angle of the thighbone and alignment of the knee and ankle, potentially increasing the risk of sustaining injuries in those places.
The intercondylar notch, which is a groove in the femur that the ACL passes through tends to be smaller in women than men, making it more prone to injury.
Higher levels of oestrogen, which is theorised to weaken the ACL ligament. One study found that ACL injuries tended to be more prevalent in women during the menstrual cycle when estrogen levels were higher.
A combination of less developed quadricep and hamstring muscles as well as looser ligaments, which allows for greater flexibility but leads to an increased risk of ACL injury.
Female athletes also tend to move differently, which might predispose them to certain injuries. For example, when landing from a jump, female athletes tend to land more upright and with their knees closer together. When women suddenly change direction, they tend to do so on one foot (possibly due to a wider pelvis), while men tend to “cut” from both feet.
Female Athletes and Concussion
Research shows that young female athletes have nearly double the risk of concussion compared to male athletes. This includes a range of sports commonly played in Melbourne, including soccer and basketball. The reason for this is not clear. Possible explanations include differences in head and neck strength and hormonal differences.
It’s essential to seek medical treatment as soon as possible, as delaying treatment can prolong the recovery time. Research does indicate female athletes seek specialty medical treatment later than male athletes for sports-related concussions, and this delay may cause them to experience more symptoms and longer recoveries.
Reducing Sports Injuries Among Female Athletes
Fortunately, women can take steps to reduce the likelihood of suffering these sports injuries. This includes strengthening muscles, especially the hamstring and vastus medialis (muscles along the inside of the thigh and knee) to prevent ACL injuries. Training to change direction using both feet, training to land from jumps in a safer position, and targeted weight-lifting programmes can also help. Bracing can help limit ankle sprain while Orthotics (shoe inserts) may provide more support for those prone to plantar fasciitis or other foot injuries.
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Pinnacle Health Group provides a range of services including physiotherapy, massage, clinical pilates, yoga and more. If you’re injured or need health advice, book an appointment for one of our centrally based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.