How Women Can Prevent Common Sports Injuries
Two common activity-related injuries for women include anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears and stress fractures. Although there’s no definitive answer about why they occur more often in women than in men, there are ways women can help prevent them.
Stress fractures are small, painful cracks in a bone that often occur when bones aren’t strong enough to endure the impact of repetitive exercise. Brandon Fites, MD, an orthopedic physician at Avera Orthopedics in Aberdeen, S.D., notices this is often the result of female athlete triad disorder, an energy-in, energy-out imbalance due to overtraining or possibly an eating disorder.
“What we often see is that a woman’s weight gets so low that it affects her hormones which also regulate bone metabolism. Because of that her bones are weakened and more easily fractured. It’s important to note that some women don’t have an actual eating disorder – they simply have a low body weight,” he adds.
So what’s the best way to prevent stress fractures? Fites recommends maintaining a healthy body weight and good nutrition, in addition to listening to your body so that you’re not overtraining.
When an ACL tears, it most often occurs during athletic activity, especially when there is a sudden twisting motion or change in direction. “Plyometric training is great for preventing injury and has been shown to reduce the rate of ACL tears,” he says. Plyometric training – also known as “jump training” – can easily be incorporated into your workout routine by doing a series of jumps such as jump squats, one-leg hops or box jumps.
Train More, Injured Less
Chris Krouse, DO, an orthopedic physician at Avera Orthopedics in Mitchell, S.D., agrees that preventive exercises are key to avoiding injury. “Preventive medicine is the best medicine,” he says. “Resistance training, including weight lifting, is very important for women. It strengthens muscles, tendons and ligaments, which helps stabilize joints. It’s also very good for bone health and osteoporosis prevention.”
Krouse adds that consistency and variety are key. Maintaining a regular exercise program that includes a variety of activities and intensity levels – including appropriate rest – can also reduce your risk of injury.
Before starting any new exercise program, Krouse recommends getting an annual physical with your primary care provider to make sure your heart, lungs and other important body systems are working well. “Once you have clearance, work with a certified trainer or attend a workout class to get expert guidance. Progress slowly to develop a solid base and avoid injury. Stick with a consistent routine and don’t be afraid try some different things.”