The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

Harvard Review: Foot Sports Injuries More Likely to Occur in Women Than in Men

Posted by on Monday, January 25th, 2016

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Women are more prone to the most common ankle and foot sports injuries, according to Robert Shmerling M.D., writing for the Harvard Health Publications blog last month.1http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-gender-gap-in-sports-injuries-201512038708#sthash.fVL2VOKj.dpuf Similar reports have been published recently, including an article on RunnersConnect.net, which claims women are 50% more likely to suffer Achilles tendinitis and other injuries.2http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/running-injuries-in-women/ For sports medicine doctors, this opens up many questions. Why are women more likely to develop these types of injuries, and can anything be done about it? The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in NYC works with a number of female athletes to diagnose, treat, and reduce injuries.

sports injuries in women
Sports injuries in women like ACL injuries, stress fractures, plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendinitis, and ankle sprains are commoner than in men. Image Source: AAOS.org

Which Foot and Ankle Injuries Affect Female Athletes Most?

In addition to ACL knee injuries and shoulder troubles, researchers found the following common injuries disproportionately affecting women athletes:

  • Ankle sprain – Some speculate that higher estrogen levels and wearing high heels weaken ankle ligaments.3https://books.google.com/books/about/Sports_Injuries.html?id=iim59RM1KywC
  • Stress fractures – Harvard researchers blame stress fractures in the feet and shins on a combination of “inadequate calorie and nutrient intake, irregular menstrual periods, and bone loss.”
  • Plantar fasciitis – “Abnormal alignment of the foot and flat feet may contribute to these small tears in the supporting tissues along the arch and heel,” researchers say.

Why Are These Sports Injuries in Women More Common Than in Men?

Female athletes differ from male athletes in that they have:

  • Higher estrogen levels
  • Lower muscle mass
  • More body fat
  • Greater ligament flexibility
  • A wider pelvis, which changes knee and ankle alignment
  • A narrower space within the knee for the ACL to pass
  • Lower calcium and vitamin D intake

According to Harvard researchers who have studied the movements of men and women athletes, they find that women land more upright with their knees closer together when jumping and that they change direction on one foot, rather than two — which is perhaps enabled by the wider pelvic mass. Hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle have been theorized to make injury more likely as well, but not enough research has been conducted to support these claims.

How Can Women Avoid Ankle and Foot Sports Injuries?

Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we have a highly sophisticated gait analysis center that checks for anomalies in a person’s movements that will most likely result in injury. From there, we have techniques of “re-training” the body to move in different ways that spread out force more evenly to avoid sports injuries in women and in men.

Sometimes injury prevention is a matter of having the right gear and equipment to align the naturally unique skeletal structure into a more efficient position. We regularly advise patients on footwear choice, as well as products like braces, wraps, and pads that realign the body. Our Manhattan and Westchester offices are equipped to fashion custom orthoses for problematic feet.

We can also guide you through strength training programs that remove even more stress from the body’s support structures. For instance, we have seen significant declines in ACL injury rates when the hamstrings are strengthened and significant declines in Achilles injury rates when the calf muscles are strengthened. We can point you to products like braces, wraps, and pads that realign the body.

NYC Women, Sports Injury Treatment and Prevention Strategies

Dr. Josef J. Geldwert and his NYC team of sports medicine doctors have worked with women marathon runners, triathletes, Olympians, and tennis competitors. We have been the official on-call specialists for professional women’s league teams like the NY Lizards (lacrosse), NY Liberty (basketball) and NY Power (soccer). We have the experience, knowledge, and bedside manner necessary to help you at any stage in your athletic life–be it the diagnosis or treatment of injury, or the prevention strategies and strength training to have a long, storied career. Contact us!

 

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1. http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-gender-gap-in-sports-injuries-201512038708#sthash.fVL2VOKj.dpuf
2. http://runnersconnect.net/running-injury-prevention/running-injuries-in-women/
3. https://books.google.com/books/about/Sports_Injuries.html?id=iim59RM1KywC

If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.