Stress Fractures in Females
Stress fractures are a common overuse injury, especially in athletes. The most common area is the tibia. The risk factors that put women more at risk for stress fractures than men include anatomic differences, nutrition, and hormone balance. Physiologically, men have larger bones than women and have more body mass in their legs. Men also tend to have a higher bone density than women, especially with age due to changes in hormone levels.
Female athletes are especially at risk and the “female athlete triad” describes the relationship between three main health problems in athletic women. Those include energy deficit (unhealthy eating habits or excessive exercise), loss of regular monthly period, and weak bones (osteoporosis).
In general, one should be cautious that your nutritional intake matches up with the energy you spend exercising. Lack of proper nutrition can lead to changes to your body’s hormones which can then affect your bone strength. As women age, hormone levels (specifically estrogen) can change or decrease leading to weaker bones and higher risk of stress fractures. Women typically have a diet that is too low in fat and calcium leading to weaker bones.
Make sure to wear appropriate shoes especially when being active to give your body and feet enough support and shock absorption to avoid added stress to the bones. Be conscious of how many miles or how old your shoes are so that after about 500 miles or several months of use, the shoes can be updated to avoid too much stress on the feet and leg bones.
To help avoid stress fractures, gradually increase exercise or training sessions, incorporate some strength training, and maintain a healthy balance between nutrition, hydration, and exercise.
Another thing to keep in mind is the intensity of exercise especially on hard surfaces, use of orthotics, and shoes with proper support and cushion for shock absorption.
If you suspect that you are suffering from a stress fracture or injury, make an appointment to be checked by our physicians at FASMA.
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