Young woman who hurt her shoulder playing tennis.

Four Common Orthopaedic Problems in Women

In an earlier blog, we identified the six most common orthopaedic injuries in men. In this blog we take a look at some of the most common injuries the Great Basin Orthopaedics (GBO) team sees in their female patients.   

  • Anterior Cruciate Ligament injuries — More commonly known as ACL sprains or tears, these common knee injuries are often seen in people who participate in sports that involve pivoting, like soccer or basketball. It’s not entirely understood why female athletes have a high incidence of ACL injuries, although some speculate it’s the differences in bone anatomy, muscle strength and neuromuscular control, which leads to problematic pelvic and lower leg alignment. Women also tend to have less muscle mass around their knees, which can lead to tearing when that ligament is overstretched. Prevention Tips: ACL injuries can be prevented by developing good core and hip muscle strength. Specific strength training programs can also be recommended by personal trainers and physical therapists.

Related: Why Does My Knee Hurt?

  • Stress fractures (a tiny crack in the bone) are also common in women. Reasons for this include hormonal differences, increased bone density and higher rates of inadequate nutrition. Stress fractures often occur when someone increases or changes their activity too quickly. The Mayo Clinic shares these tips for preventing stress fractures:
  • Make changes slowly. Start any new exercise program slowly and progress gradually. Avoid increasing the amount you exercise by more than 10% a week.
  • Use proper footwear. Make sure your shoes fit well and are appropriate for your activity. If you have flat feet, ask your doctor about arch supports for your shoes.
  • Cross-train. Add low-impact activities to your exercise regimen to avoid repetitively stressing a particular part of your body.
  • Get proper nutrition. To keep your bones strong, make sure your diet includes enough calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients
  • Shoulder injuries — like impingement syndrome, rotator cuff tendinitis, instability, and frozen shoulder syndrome —  also tend to show up in women. The frequency of injury is likely due to insufficient upper body strength, weak rotator cuffs and loose supporting tissues, all of which creates shoulder instability. Participating in sports that use the shoulder muscles — swimming, softball, volleyball — can increase this risk. Prevention tips: Staying in shape is the best way to protect your shoulders, which means regular exercise and a healthy diet. Warm up before you exercise and listen to your body. If your shoulder hurts after an activity, don’t ignore it. If the pain doesn’t go away, talk to your doctor.

Related: Why Does Your Shoulder Hurt?

  • Ankle injuries are also commonly seen in women, most likely due to decreased muscle strength and joint hypermobility. High-heeled shoes can also be a contributing factor. Prevention tips: Start a new activity gradually and be sure to warm up prior to starting any sports activity. Wear the right shoes — for your foot type and the activity. And avoid running or stepping on uneven surfaces.

Related: Just because the shoe fits, doesn’t mean you should wear it

The danger of osteoporosis

While we addressed osteoporosis in the article on injuries in men, this diagnosis is much more common in women. Osteoporosis is a condition where the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. This can be caused by hormonal changes, or a deficiency in calcium or vitamin C. And estrogen, which decreases when women reach menopause, is one of the hormones that protects bones.

According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation:

  • Of the estimated 10 million Americans with osteoporosis, about eight million or 80% are women.
  • Approximately one in two women over age 50 will break a bone because of osteoporosis.
  • A woman’s risk of breaking a hip is equal to her combined risk of breast, uterine and ovarian cancer.

It’s important to note, however, that osteoporosis is not inevitable. To protect your bones for the long haul:

  • Eat a healthy diet, including plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Don’t drink or smoke
  • Talk to your doctor about what other specific things you can do, which might include medication

If you do get hurt

Whether you get hurt through athletic endeavors or wearing the wrong shoes, contact us to see what we can do to help you, whether that’s through physical therapy, surgery, or non-surgical treatment options.