Given genetic differences between males and females, it makes sense that there are gender specific considerations for female sport participants.
Here are three health issues that predominantly affect female sport participants and some tips on how to minimise your risk.
1. Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injury
Female athletes have been shown to have up to nine times increased risk of an ACL injury. If you participate in a sport which involves change of direction (such as netball, football, and touch football), make sure you include sport–specific strengthening and movements to minimise your risk of injury.
Don’t know where to start? Luckily, there are some fantastic external resources which can help guide you through this:
2. Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-S)
RED-S occurs when an individual’s dietary energy intake is insufficient to support their energy expenditure required for health, function, and daily living. Females are particularly susceptible to RED-S which can affect metabolic rate, menstrual function, bone health, immunity, protein synthesis, and cardiovascular health. It can also affect sports performance.
For female athletes, a regular monthly period can be a good indicator that they are meeting their energy requirements. Amenorrhea, or the absence of a monthly period for three months, may indicate an imbalance of energy intake. If this is the case it is important to consult with a GP or a Sports & Exercise Medicine Doctor who has an interest in female health.
3. Concussion in female athletes
There is emerging evidence indicating that female athletes respond differently to their male counterparts when they sustain a sports related concussion. This includes a higher incidence of concussion, having more symptoms and taking longer to recover.
It is important female sport participants are aware of these differences and, following a concussion, only return to sport once medically cleared.