4 Injuries That Hurt Female Athletes

Concussions, stress fractures, "runner's knee," and ACL damage are big problems for women in sports

U.S.News & World Report—August 15, 2008

1. ACL injuries

The problem: Damage to the knee's ACL, or anterior cruciate ligament, has been shown to disproportionately affect females, says Rebecca Demorest, who treats pediatric and young adult athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.The noncontact injury rate among female athletes is as much as 10 times that of men, according to the American College of Sports Medicine. And blowing out the ACL can sideline an athlete for a season—or, in the worst case, ruin a career.

2. Concussion

The problem: One study suggests that in collegiate sports with similar equipment and rules, like basketball and soccer, women have higher game concussion rates than males. In hockey, the study found, the rates of concussion were similar, even though there are rules against body-checking in the women's game. The question is whether there are genetic differences that put women at true increased risk, or whether women are more honest about their symptoms and report their concussions more than men, says Demorest. Others have suggested that women's weaker neck muscles may play a role. Concussions, especially multiple ones, can have long-term implications.

3. Stress fractures

The problem: There's no clear evidence that stress fractures, which occur when a bone is stressed over time, occur more often in female athletes than males, Demorest says. That said, a stress fracture sometimes indicates deeper problems, like the female athlete triad—the combination of disordered eating, osteoporosis, and a lack of a menstrual period. All of those can have serious long-term consequences for bone and general health.

4. Patellofemoral syndrome

The problem: This generalized ache under the kneecap, or patella, is caused by the irregular tracking of the patella and its painful contact with the femur. It's a problem for young athletes and also often strikes women. Their wider hips may put them at risk for the knee alignment problems that can make the patella track incorrectly.

The article goes on to identify the riskiest sports for each of the injuries and how to prevent them.

Read the full story at usnews.com.

For more information on the treatment of women's sports injuries, please visit the Women's Sports Medicine Center on hss.edu.

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