Women and girls are more prone to ACL and meniscus tears, arthritis and pain in the knees, stress fractures, and some shoulder injuries.
“Women have more laxity than men in general, so the joints move a little bit more, which can put more stress on joints,” said Dr. Camille Clinton, board-certified orthopedic surgeon at EvergreenHealth Orthopedic and Sports Care in Kirkland.
Other reasons these injuries can be more common in women include differences in bone structure, strength, and balance of muscle groups. Dr. Clinton suggests warming up and stretching before and after playing sports or exercising.
“I think that what’s important is that, as we all age, to continue to work on the basic things,” Dr. Clinton said. “We need to work a little bit more on some of the basic strengthening exercises now than we did when we were teenagers.”
Research has shown that many sports injuries, including ACL injuries, can be avoided with the appropriate preventative care. The ACL is one of the ligaments in the middle of the knee that prevents the leg bone from moving forward too far and helps with rotational stability of the knee — and a tear can cause severe pain and swelling. Preventative steps include:
- Eating a healthy diet. Women have a greater likelihood of receiving inadequate amounts of calcium and vitamin D so should chat with their physicians about incorporating a calcium or vitamin D supplement into their routines. These two supplements increase bone strength and density, preventing injury later.
- Listening to your body. If you’ve injured yourself, even if it’s minor, take a break and rest! Your body will thank you later and you’ll be able to get back to the activities you love in no time.
- Starting new activities gradually. This will reduce your risk of overuse injury.
- Taking time to warm up and stretch before physical activities. While it may not seem important, these five extra minutes can prevent a multitude of injuries in the body. We also get tighter as we age so stretching becomes increasingly important.
Additionally, it's important to incorporate specific exercise routines that focus on biometrics and core strengthening. These programs can help you increase hamstring strength and work on jumping, pivoting, and landing in better positions.
“Those have proven to decrease the risk of ACL injuries,” Dr. Clinton said.
If you do get injured, it’s important to ice the area, take ibuprofen, and rest. If pain persists, contact your healthcare provider for an appointment. Dr. Clinton and other providers at EvergreenHealth can give an examination, take X-rays, take further imaging if needed and recommend a physical therapist and any additional treatment. They will work with patients directly to create an individualized treatment plan that fits their activity needs.
To learn more, visit the EvergreenHealth Orthopedic & Sports Care website.