Women and sports injuries: True or false?
Everybody who plays sports—whether casually or seriously—runs the risk of being injured. But women face some special risks. Do you know what they are? Test your knowledge with this quick quiz.
True or false: Missed periods can be a sign that female athletes are at higher risk for bone loss.
True. They're also a red flag of what's known as female athlete triad. It affects women and girls driven to excel in sports. Those with it have three conditions: disordered eating (such as using laxatives to control weight), missed periods and weak bones. Women and girls in gymnastics, figure skating and running are at especially high risk.
True or false: ACL tears are more common for women than for men.
True. Women are more likely than men to injure their anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). That's one of four important ligaments that help keep knees stable. Some studies suggest that higher estrogen levels may be to blame for this higher injury rate. Preseason endurance training can help you stay injury-free.
True or false: It's generally safest to stop exercising when you're pregnant, particularly after the second trimester.
False. If you're healthy and your pregnancy is normal, it's safe to continue—or start—most types of exercise. Regular exercise can ease discomforts like back pain and may even reduce the risk of a cesarean section delivery. But get an OK from your doctor before working out.
True or false: Female athletes have higher rates of concussion and worse symptoms than men.
True. Female soccer players, for example, have more than double the risk of concussion of their male counterparts. And regardless of the sport played, women are also more likely to feel lightheadedness or fatigued, have poor concentration, or "see stars" after a concussion. Women's smaller neck muscles may play a role.
True or false: Women are more prone to stress fractures than men.
True. Women are especially vulnerable to these small cracks that typically develop in the bones of the lower leg and foot. One reason: Women have higher rates of osteoporosis—a disease in which bones lose density and become weak—than men. Stress fractures are an overuse injury. They're especially common with repetitive activities, like running.
Not every sports injury is serious enough to warrant a doctor visit—you can treat sprains and other minor problems at home. This infographic can show you the basics of the RICE method.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "An Athlete’s Sex Matters in Sports-Related Injuries and Treatment Outcomes." https://www.aaos.org/aaos-home/newsroom/press-releases/an-athletes-sex-matters-in-sports-related-injuries-and-treatment-outcomes/.
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. "When Contact Sports Cause Concussion Injuries, Who Comes Out Ahead?" https://www.aaos.org/aaos-home/newsroom/press-releases/when-contact-sports-cause-concussion-injuries-who-comes-out-ahead/.
- American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "Exercise During Pregnancy." https://www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/exercise-during-pregnancy.
- American College of Sports Medicine. "What is the Female Athlete Triad?" https://www.acsm.org/education-resources/trending-topics-resources/resource-library/detail?id=17abeadd-a19c-48c7-b8dd-2477aa839fe0.
- American Council on Exercise. "How to Prevent and Treat ACL Injuries." https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/6668/how-to-prevent-and-treat-acl-injuries/.
- American Council on Exercise. "Using Inclusive Language to Improve the Exercise Experience." https://www.acefitness.org/resources/everyone/blog/.
- Familydoctor.org. "Female Athlete Triad." https://familydoctor.org/condition/female-athlete-triad/.
- Familydoctor.org. "Osteoporosis." https://familydoctor.org/condition/osteoporosis/.
- OrthoInfo. "Stress Fractures." https://orthoinfo.aaos.org/en/diseases--conditions/stress-fractures.
- PubMed. "Return-to-Play Guidelines in Concussion: Revisiting the Literature." https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25295761/.