Exercise-related injuries women should be aware of

Exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle. Various studies have shown that people who find time to exercise regularly have a lower risk for diabetes and heart disease and also experience greater life satisfaction than people who do not exercise.

Though exercise should be a routine part of everyone’s life, it’s important that people who are physically active recognize the risk for injury that comes with such activity. Such recognition can encourage the kind of balance that can make active men and women less susceptible to injury. It’s also important for active adults to recognize that they may be susceptible to certain types of injuries based on a host of factors, including gender.

According to the Geisinger Health System, a regional health care provider servicing parts of the United States, the differences in body composition and hormone levels between men and women can make women more susceptible to certain injuries than men. For example, Harvard Medical School notes that women have higher estrogen levels and less muscle and fat than men, and these factors and others can contribute to higher incidences of certain injuries among female athletes than male athletes. Though that’s unfortunate, recognition of this gender gap has, according to Harvard Medical School, inspired some innovative efforts designed to prevent injuries in female athletes.

Female athletes and exercise enthusiasts can do their part by recognizing which injuries they may be more susceptible to. Once that recognition has been made, women can speak with their physicians about what they might be able to do to reduce their injury risk.

• Knee injuries: Harvard Medical School notes that knee injuries are especially common among women who play soccer and basketball. Geisinger notes that tears of the anterior cruciate ligament, or ACL, are more common for active women than active men because women have wider pelvises than men, which places increased strain on their ACLs. In addition, the muscles in women’s hips are typically weaker than men’s, which results in reduced leg control when jumping or landing. That can put extra strain on the ACL, increasing the likelihood that it will tear when turning quickly or accidentally falling. Certain muscle strengthening exercises can greatly reduce risk for ACL injuries, and active women are urged to discuss such exercises with their physicians.

• Stress fractures: Women who participate in high-impact sports and activities may be especially vulnerable to stress fractures. That’s even more so for women suffering from what’s known as the “female athlete triad,” which the Harvard Medical School characterizes as a combination of inadequate calorie and nutrition intake, irregular menstrual periods and bone loss. Consuming a nutritious diet that includes adequate calcium and vitamin D can help reduce risk for stress fractures. Rest also reduces that risk, especially for female athletes who engage in high-impact sports.

• Plantar fasciitis: Sports fans are familiar with plantar fasciitis, an inflammation in the thick band of tissue that supports the arch on the bottom of the foot. Many a professional athlete has experienced plantar fasciitis, and women who engage in certain physical activities may be susceptible to it. Geisinger notes that women are not necessarily more susceptible to plantar fasciitis than men, though they might be more likely to engage in the kinds of activities, such as ballet and aerobic dance, that increase their risk.

Physical activity is important for people of all ages and backgrounds. Women who are physically active and recognize their susceptibility to certain injuries can take steps to reduce their risk for such issues.

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