In honor of National Women’s Health & Fitness Day on September
25, 2019, we would like to focus on the importance of regular physical
activity and health awareness for women. We spoke with Dr. Emilia Ravski,
sports medicine physician at Hoag Orthopedic Institute, about common sports
injuries in women and how they can protect themselves from being injured.
Q: Are there sports injuries that are much more common in women than in men?
What are they and why do they occur?
A: Many may not be aware of the differences between male and female bodies.
Specifically, hormonal factors and anatomical variations that can lead
to an opportunity for increase in musculoskeletal injures for women of
all ages. The most common injuries in women compared to men include patellofemoral
knee pain, anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture and bony stress fractures.
Patellofemoral knee pain is described as pain in front of the knee. It
can be present when running and or doing jumping activities. This is caused
by the knee cap tracking poorly on the femur. One of the reasons this
is more common in women is due to increased angle between the hip and
the knee cap called the Q angle.
In regard to an increase risk of ACL ruptures in women, there are many
factors that contribute to this including anatomical alignments, hormonal
factors and dynamic stability with exercise.
Last, stress fractures occur from repetitive, excessive impact on the bone
leading to a fracture. In young female athletes, an imbalance can occur
where increased energy expenditure exceeds the caloric energy intake leading
to abnormal hormonal homeostasis in the body and can manifest as menstrual
irregularities and bony stress injuries. After menopause, women can develop
osteoporosis which can lead to stress fractures due to decreased bone density.
Q: What are ways women can protect themselves from injuries?
A: The main factor to focus on in injury prevention in women is to train
properly. This means that the training regimen should not progress too
fast in intensity, volume or speed. This allows the body to adapt to the
needs of the training and is especially important in preventing overuse
injuries, such stress fractures and patellofemoral knee pain. Proper nutrition
is a vital component of a comprehensive training program and cannot be
Another important factor includes technique. Proper dynamic control of
the body is a key element for preventing patellofemoral knee pain, ACL
rupture and stress fractures of the lower extremities. Despite the sport,
the underlying concept for female athletes is to develop a strong core
with good hip, knee and foot stability that can be maintained during exercise
despite fatigue. Using these concepts specific exercises can be adapted
to each athlete depending on their age and sports; and implemented in
injury prevention and treatment.
Last, for women after menopause, it is important to minimize bone loss
and maintain muscle mass in order to decrease the risk for fractures.
Types of exercises are specific to one’s fitness level, can include
walking, running, weights, yoga and tai chi.
There are many things we can do to take care of ourselves as women. Musculoskeletal
injury prevention and care is vital because our body is the most powerful
vehicle we have.