Reports show that female athletes are more susceptible to certain sports injuries compared to their male counterparts. This includes everyone from girls participating in sports at school to professional female athletes. There are specific injuries women appear to be more prone to and a variety of reasons that could explain why.
Common Injuries for Female Athletes
Many of these different sports injuries are common in both men and women, but are slightly higher among the latter:
- 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)
The Reason These Injuries are More Common
According to experts, there are a variety of possible explanations why these injuries could be more common in female athletes than men. However, these are closer to theories that 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 thigh bone 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 estrogen, 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 in a range of common sports 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 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 Female Sports Injuries
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 programs 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.
Visit Our Wellness Clinics in Melbourne or Sydney
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 from one of our CBD based health clinics or join a wellness class near you.