Thursday, October 21, 2010

Injury Risk for Female Athletes

We are all aware that women and men differ in general physiology, and it is easy to extrapolate that they differ in physiology in response to exercise and physical activity. While women are prone to many of the same exercise-related injuries, a recent article in the SIRC Collection draws our focus to the injury risks of women in exercise and athletics and the special concerns of the female athlete.

With the growing numbers of female participants in sport and exercise there is a corresponding incidence of injury to females. In a review of the literature the article observes that women have greater injury incidence due to differences in:
  • biomechanics (the most noticeable factor),
  • weakness in local musculature,
  • coordination and neuromuscular fatigue,
  • ligament and tendon properties,
  • increased flexibility (with corresponding greater joint laxity),
  • hormonal effects on connective tissue.

Injuries that are more common for women than men include:

  • musculoskeletal injuries
  • lower extremity injuries
  • ACL injuries
  • stress fractures

While there are treatments that address the specific needs of the female athlete, both men and women can benefit from the same preventive measures such as adequate stretching, appropriate warm-up and cool-down, sport-specific strengthening, and conditioning exercises. It is important however, to keep in mind the specific physiological differences when planning fitness and sporting activities.

Reference: Groeger Marlelena (2010). Injury Risks for the Female Athlete, ACSM’s health & fitness journal, 14(4), 14-21.

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