What female athletes can do to reduce injury risk
No athlete is immune to injuries. Fans of professional sports are well aware of that notion, as many a team’s season has been adversely affected by injury to one or more players. In fact, a comprehensive and longitudinal study of injury trends in Major League Baseball published in the American Journal of Orthopedics in 2016 found that players lost an average of 25,186 days to injury each year between 1998 and 2015.
If injuries are that common in the professional sports arena, where players have daily access to experienced and highly trained medical staff, it’s fair to conclude that amateur athletes are equally if not more vulnerable to injury.
The Tulane Women’s Sports Medicine Program notes that studies have found that women are more prone than men to some of the most common sports-related injuries. The TWSMP reports that researchers credit that disparity to differences between how the bodies of men and women function, among other factors. Ankle sprains, knee injuries and stress fractures are among the more common sports-related injuries in women. While women athletes can never make themselves immune to injury, there are steps they can take to reduce their risk for such injuries.
• Emphasize strength training in workout routines. The TWSMP recommends women include strength training in their routines, notably focusing on strengthening the hamstrings and major muscles in the lower legs. This can help women who compete in sports such as soccer where ACL injuries are a significant risk. The ACL Preventative Training Program at Mass General Brigham incorporates strength training and plyometrics paired with agility, balance and flexibility training to help women athletes reduce their risk of ACL injuries, and such an approach can be studied by women concerned about their injury risk.
• Be especially careful after giving birth. The University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health urges women who recently gave birth to be especially cautious. The Cleveland Clinic notes that progesterone is a hormone that plays an important role in women’s reproductive systems. Levels of that hormone are elevated during pregnancy, and UW Health indicates that has a softening effect that can lead to a loosening of limbs and muscles, which can persist for months after giving birth.
• Avoid overuse. The Cleveland Clinic indicates repetitive strain injuries, which can damage muscles, tendons or nerves, are caused by repetitive movement and overuse. Though athletes are competitive by nature, rest is vital to athletic performance. Women are urged to built rest days into their workout routines, resisting the notion that pushing through pain is a sign of commitment.
Women athletes are more susceptible to common sports injuries than men. Taking measures to reduce injury risk can ensure women can continue to compete and reap the rewards of exercise.
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