The answer? Unfortunately, it is worse than you think it is.
New studies confirm that women are more prone to sports-related injuries than men, meaning they get injured more than their male counterparts.
To get more insight about this growing problem and what recreational and elite women athletes can do to prevent injuries, we talked with James E. Tibone, MD, Moss professor of sports medicine, professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery and Seth C. Gamradt, MD and director of orthopaedic athletic medicine and associate professor of clinical orthopaedic surgery at the USC Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at Keck Medicine of USC. Both work with USC athletes and other major sports teams like the New York Giants and the Los Angeles Dodgers, Lakers, Kings and Rams.
Why the gender gap?
There are many factors. Some of it is anatomy. Some may be hormonal. It can also be the difference in the way women and men perform certain activities. For example, women jump and land differently than men. There is no clear answer, but experts have developed ways to help prevent injuries in women athletes.
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What are the most common types of injuries that women athletes suffer?
Overuse injuries from intense training and inadequate therapy are becoming more common for women. And shoulder injuries, tendonitis, and back pain are other injuries that women athletes incur.
Knee injuries are common among basketball and soccer players, especially ACL tears. Women athletes are two-to-eight times more likely to suffer an ACL tear than men. Stress fractures in the feet, often caused by the “female athlete triad,” which is a combination of irregular periods, bone loss and poor nutrition. These three problems are prevalent in runners and women who engage in other sports activities that emphasize leanness.
What treatments are available?
- Prevention is number one. For example, proprioception training teaches athletes how to jump and land with a flexed knee to reduce stress on the ACL. Talk with your physician or a certified fitness trainer to determine the best plan of action for your workout.
- Consistent therapy strengthens injured muscles. If you are already injured, do not skip your therapy. It is the fastest way to get yourself back to 100 percent performance.
- Gradually increase in intensity and distance/duration. An elite runner never starts out running 26 miles – she builds up by increasing the distance daily. This gradual build-up is the easiest way to curb injury for runners.
- Avoid overuse. Switch your workouts, riding a bike one day, running the next, so that you do not overuse the same muscle groups.
The key to avoiding injury? Be disciplined in your training and therapy.
Stay positive and remember that staying healthy is the best gift you can give yourself. If you are unsure about next steps, talk with an orthopaedic surgeon. They can help you incorporate prevention therapies into your workout plan that address injuries common in your particular sport. If you are already injured, do your therapeutic exercises daily, no excuses.
Our orthopaedic surgeons do not just treat collegiate and professional athletes. We treat everyone from weekend warriors to high school athletes to early adolescents just learning to play sports.
If you are in the Los Angeles area and are looking for exceptional care from some of the top orthopaedic surgeons in the world, be sure to schedule an appointment by calling (800) USC-CARE (800-872-2273) or by visiting http://www.ortho.keckmedicine.org/request-an-appointment/.