Female Athletes and Physiotherapy

Female Athletes and Physiotherapy

It’s important for all athletes to be in-tune with their body while participating in sport, especially when training and playing at a high level. Female Athletes and Physiotherapy go hand in hand as there are certain conditions and considerations to be aware of.

Puberty and Development

Hormonal changes occur during puberty which help the body grow from a child into an adult’s body. For female athletes this means the start of menstruation and an increase in height and weight. To keep on top of bone, muscle and soft tissue growth during this time it’s crucial that athletes fuel their body correctly and engage in a variety of sports. Athletes who participate in different sports and continue to try new skills and activities, rather than concentrate exclusively on one sport from a young age, will have less injuries, develop better motor skills and participate in sport for longer.

Menstrual Health

Menstrual dysfunction (abnormal or loss of menstrual periods) is common amongst female athletes, often due to the high level of energy they are burning. When our intake of energy through food doesn’t match the energy we have burnt while exercising our body will enter a “low power mode”. Irregular or complete loss of a period may indicate an athlete has entered this state of low energy availability, or be a sign of other underlying medical conditions. During this time it can become very difficult for athletes to recover from exercise and repair tissues or bones. This can lead to bone stress injuries or soft issue injuries which become persistent and more difficult to recover from.

Pelvic Health 

Many female athletes report pelvic floor symptoms, more commonly during high-impact sports involving jumping, landing, or sprinting. Female athletes returning to sport post-pregnancy may be at risk of developing pelvic floor disorders like urine leakage, but this can also occur with athletes who have not had children. High-impact sports place load on the pelvic floor; these muscles need to have the strength and coordination to manage these loads. Pelvic floor muscles can be trained to improve their strength, endurance and coordination under the guide of a physiotherapist or health professional with specific training in pelvic floor disorders.

Physiotherapy can be used for both the prevention and rehabilitation of sporting injuries for all athletes. For female athletes, it is important to factor in these extra considerations for a safe return to sport and also long-term health. A physiotherapist can help screen for any of these considerations, adjust your rehabilitation accordingly, and refer to other specialists when required.

Pro Physio SA, Georgina Bradley, Physiotherapist

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