Men and Women are Different???
As I’ve become more involved with treating active women, I’ve noticed a trend in injury risk that’s different from men. As a result, I’d like to share with you the top four sports injuries more likely to affect women than men and why. I’ve also added some things to think about to help you—or someone you know—try and avoid these injuries.
Stress fractures in the lower leg.
These hairline cracks are caused by overuse, such as abnormal and repetitive loads or stresses. Stress fractures are especially common in athletes who suffer from "the female triad,” and they often occur in the shin bone (tibia) and the bones of the foot (metatarsal). The female triad is a condition characterized by a combination of poor nutrition, lack of a menstrual period during reproduction age and a reduction in bone density. Eating a well-balanced diet that is appropriate for the number of calories burned per day is one solution. However, assistance from a healthcare professional is definitely advised to address the triad symptoms and causes. Biomechanics and load intensity also play a huge role in distributing the force on the foot.
Anterior cruciate ligament injury.
An ACL tear is the clear winner in terms of female injuries compared with male—and it’s most common among young, developing athletes. It’s all about anatomical differences, as women have wider hips, which means the biomechanics of the knee is different. In particular, there’s an increased angle between the thigh bone (femur) and the shin bone (tibia), which is known as the Q angle. The average Q angle in women is up to 5 degrees higher than in men, which can lead to poor knee control and an increased risk of valgus, or sideways forces on the knee, especially when landing from a jump or turning. You can help prevent ACL problems by improving your leg coordination through exercises such as the single-leg balance and strengthening the hip to improve knee positioning. Changing direction often magnifies this knee fault. We need to improve the position while in dynamic movement such as running and jumping.
Anterior Knee Pain.
This pain is often felt around or under the kneecap. It’s common in active girls and again linked to an increased Q angle. This is why it is imperative to have a great functioning hip in a developing female athlete. Without the coordination and awareness it can can lead to both the knee and foot turning in and increasing the Q angle even further. I advise improving the strength of both the gluteal and quadriceps muscles for a common intervention.
This is probably the most common cause of arch pain, and it’s due to inflammation or injury to the tissues in the sole of the foot from repetitive stretching or overload. In women, it is often due to regularly changing footwear, such as going from high-heeled shoes to flat shoes. The plantar fascia supports the long arch on the inside of the foot, and regularly changing shoes affects how much support the tissues can provide, therefore causing excessive strain on the foot. The shoe drastically changes the amount of stress on the arch, and the mistake is usually going from one shoe to the next with no time for the foot to adapt. My simple piece of advice is to avoid changing shoes without any transition time. Also, try to have break-in time for new shoes to slowly let your feet adapt. If you already have plantar fasciitis, there is a lot you can do to cure it, including stretching/strengthening, taping, and basic orthotic shoe insoles.
Get this stuff handled so you can get back to being the athlete you are trying to be!