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Women’s Sports Injuries

Athletic injuries vary by gender.

Women's sports injuries

“Women are not small men,” a phrase popularized by Stacy T. Sims, PhD, points to the fact that much of research in sports training and nutrition does not sufficiently acknowledge gender differences. To address the gap in sports rehabilitation, an international research group has created an overview of common women’s sports injuries and guidelines for rehab that specifically consider needs of female athletes. The results are published in Arthroscopy, Sports Medicine, and Rehabilitation (2022; 4 [1], e247–53).

Women are at an increased risk of different injuries than men when it comes to playing sports. The most common women’s sports injuries include

  • overuse injury;
  • anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) rupture;
  • patellofemoral injury;
  • ankle sprain;
  • chronic ankle instability; and,
  • shoulder instability.

Female athletes experience ACL tears 2–8 times more than males, and patellofemoral syndrome (aka jumper’s or runner’s knee) is 2.23 times more likely to develop for women. They also experience more lateral ankle ligament injuries, whereas men have higher rates of medial ankle sprains. More men have traumatic shoulder instability; more women have multidirectional instability. Women have more ligamentous laxity than men, with a 40% risk of postoperative instability compared with a 22% risk in male patients.

All of these factors show that training, injury prevention and rehab strategies should consider the differences between male and female athletes. Women should receive protocols specific to their unique characteristics. Study authors note that recent increases in female athletic injuries may not only be a result of more women in sports but also from “a lack of understanding of sex-related mechanisms of injury, guidelines, and prevention strategies.” Proactive trainers may want to take these known gender differences into account when designing programs for athletic clients.

See also: Preventing an ACL Injury

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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