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Female Athlete Injuries

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The female athlete who participates in competitive or recreational sports is at higher risk for injuries than her male counterpart, particularly in the so-called jumping and cutting sports such as soccer, basketball, volleyball and lacrosse.

Traumatic injuries that result from high stress to bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments occur in both males and females, but anatomical, biological and training differences put female athletes at greater risk for certain types of injuries.

Ligaments: Research indicates that, in general, females have more lax ligaments than males, primarily due to the influence of estrogen. This puts their joints at increased risk for injury. In particular, female athletes may be more prone to knee ligament injuries, shoulder instability and ankle sprains.

Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL): Studies have shown that female athletes sustain more non-contact injuries to the ACL of the knee than their male counterparts. In sports like soccer, basketball and volleyball, female athletes rupture their ACLs six times more often than males. These are often season-ending injuries that require reconstructive surgery and rehabilitation.

Patella: Females have wider hips than males. This creates a wider angle where the patella (knee cap) connects with the femur (thigh bone), and may subject women to greater joint instability, dislocation of the knee cap, or pain caused from imbalance.

Ankle & Foot: Female athletes suffer from more ankle sprains than males, most likely due to joint laxity and decreased muscle strength. Females, especially female runners, also suffer more frequently from plantar fasciitis, an inflammation of the ligament that connects the heel bone to the toes.

Shoulder problems: Examples of shoulder problems that are more common in female athletes include rotator cuff problems (including tendon inflammation, or tendinitis) and instability.

Stress fractures: Stress fractures are especially common in the feet and calves of females who have an inadequate intake of calories and nutrients, irregular menstrual periods, and bone loss. Eating disorders are often a contributing factor.

The Sports Medicine specialists at Lancaster Orthopedic Group have the expertise to diagnose and address the challenging injuries that face female athletes. In addition to repairing damage to bones, joints, tendons and ligaments, there are support devices, such as custom orthotics, and a variety of therapies, including those that prevent loss of bone density, that can be considered following a risk factor assessment by your physician.

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