WOMEN AND SPORTS

Within contact sports that involve jumping and pivoting, injuries to the ligaments are 3 to 6 times more frequent in women than in men. For example, injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), which is a vital structure for knee stability, are more common in women than in men, especially in soccer.
 
What are the most common sports injuries in women?
Ankle sprain: This is the most common injury in both men and women, but it occurs more often in women. The ankle usually twists inwards, causing the lateral ligaments of the ankle to stretch or rupture. They become inflamed, painful and require attention so as to avoid a poor outcome.
The shoulders present problems linked to joint laxity and sports above the head, which generates injuries of the rotator cuff tendons and the biceps.
Knee injuries: include irritation to the patella and ligament damage, like the anterior cruciate ligament.
Although not a ligament injury, stress fractures or mechanical overload are especially common in the foot or the shinbone. When women suffer from weight loss, low bone mineral density and menstrual disorders, this is known as the “female athlete triad”. This puts them at higher risk of suffering from a stress fracture.

Why do women get more injuries?
There is a combination of factors that contribute to a higher incidence of injuries in female athletes. But, realistically, there are more theories than proven answers. The most common explanation is the differences between the male and female bodies. For example, a typical female athlete compared to her male counterpart has:
  • Higher estrogen levels
  • Less muscle mass and more body fat
  • Greater flexibility and less powerful muscles
  • A wider pelvis, which alters the alignment of the knees and ankles
  • Narrower space in the knee for movement of the anterior cruciate ligament
  • Increased chance of calcium and vitamin D deficiency
Also, women have a different movement pattern to men. For example, when landing after a jump, women land with their legs straight and with their knees together, predisposing them to a lesion. Contrarily, men land with knee flexion and spread knees. Similarly, when a female pivots during physical activities, they tend to do so with one foot, while men use both.
What can we do about it?
Fortunately, women can take steps to reduce these odds by strengthening muscles, especially the core musculature, and re-training movement technique. Similarly, training the direction change with both feet, practicing safe landings, and using weight-lifting programs specifically for certain muscles has shown to be effective. Additionally, have the necessary support from nutritionists, fitness coaches and physiotherapists to prevent the injuries.