Interestingly statistics show that women are more vulnerable to sports injuries than men. Read on to see the list of injuries that are more common in women, what causes them and how to avoid them.
There are five factors that influence sports injuries:
- Body Composition
- Physical Performance
The main types of injuries that occur across both male and female sports are influenced by the above factors, but statistics reveal that there is a dramatically higher incidence of sports injuries among women than men.
Why are women more susceptible to sports injuries than men?
Basically, men and women are built differently. By understanding the gender-based differences in anatomy and physiology, women have a better chance at avoiding them.
Contributing factors include:
Women’s hormones are primarily estrogen. Compared to men, women have 10 to 20 times less testosterone than men. Regardless of sex, testosterone helps build muscle and bone density. For this reason, women’s muscles and bones are less sturdy than men’s.
- Lean-to-fat ratio
Women tend to have less lean body tissue and more body fat than men.
- Bone Structure
Women have a wider pelvis than men. As such, their thigh bones angle in more sharply from hip to knee. Because of this, more force is transferred to their ligaments when their knees twist, putting them at a greater risk of an ACL tear. The ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) is one of the four major ligaments of the knee. This factor also makes women more prone to malalignment syndrome.
- Muscle Strength
Women have less muscle strength than men because they generally carry only two-thirds as much muscle as men.
Flat feet can affect the body’s alignment, whether a person is standing, walking, or running. Flat feet can develop as an adult and is most common in women over 40. This means their feet tend to roll too far inward when they walk or run. As such, the shock of their stride is passed on to their legs, knees, hips, and spine instead of being absorbed by the feet. This increases the risk of pain and injury.
Women lose calcium when they carry a child in their womb, breastfeed, or are menopausal. Hence they have a greater likelihood of inadequate calcium intake. Low levels of Vitamin D also results in soft, and brittle bones.
What common injuries are women more prone to?
- ACL Tears
The anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) is one of the ligaments that stabilize the knee joint. ACL tears are common among female basketball, tennis, volleyball, and baseball players, especially women. Women have smaller, weaker muscles and loose ligaments to support their knees. In addition, their wider hips add to the risk, as mentioned earlier. It is also believed that the narrower space within women’s knees restricts the movement of the ACL during twisting, turning and landing movements.
- Ankle Sprain
Ankle sprains are common, but especially in women. Studies reveal that women’s lateral ankle ligaments are normally more lax than men’s. This leads to increased risk of female ligamentous injury, such as the anterior cruciate ligament, lateral ankle sprains and others.
- Shoulder Troubles
Generally, women have less upper body strength, weaker rotator cuff and periscapular muscles as well as looser ligaments and supporting tissues compared to men. These factors cause women to experience shoulder injuries more often than men, especially in sports that use the shoulder muscles excessively such as swimming, tennis, volleyball and softball.
- Knee Injuries
Aside from torn ACL, female athletes may also suffer from the below knee injuries more often than men:
– Patellar tracking disorder – this occurs when the patella (kneecap) shifts out of place as the leg bends or straightens.
– Meniscus tears – this occurs when the meniscus cartilage is damaged due to a sudden twist of the knee. Sometimes, a piece of torn cartilage breaks loose, gets caught and is stuck in the knee joint, causing a true knee lock.
– Stress fractures of the tibia or foot – Women are more susceptible to stress fractures (hairline bone breaks) of the tibia (shin bone) and metatarsals in the foot. This is a result of altered pronation during intense exercise or sports activities using the feet. A history of amenorrhea (lack of menstrual periods), too little body mass in the legs, and deficiency in calcium are contributing factors.
- Plantar Fasciitis
This is an injury to the plantar fascia, the thick ligament that connects the heel to the front of the foot. The plantar fascia act as shock absorbers and they can be damaged by too much pressure on the feet.
How can these injuries be avoided?
Fortunately, there are a number of ways to help avoid injury which include physiotherapy. A physiotherapist can give you proper advice on the following:
A good strengthening and flexibility program
- *Wearing proper shoes and gear
- Back and core muscle strengthening exercises
- Strengthening your hamstrings, quads and glutes
- Ensuring adequate Vitamin D and Calcium intake to strengthen bones
- Minding your form and knowing your limits
Unlike other sports physiotherapists, at The Brisbane Spine Clinic we identify the true underlying cause/s and factors that are responsible for sports injuries, as well as offer training tips and advice on how to prevent further sporting injuries.
Our physiotherapists, Jusin Lin, Leo Hyun, Caroline Sui and Kelvin Choi, have years of experience in educating and treating female athletes suffering from exercise and sports injuries. We are passionate about helping female athletes who are looking to maintain top physical condition and looking for a program to maximise muscle function and sports performance.
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*Please note, content within this article is for educational purposes only and treatment and advice mentioned may not be suited for everyone. Please consult a team member at the Brisbane Spine Clinic or your General Practitioner for specific advice.