Preventing ACL Injuries in Female Athletes

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 25, 2014

Elizabeth Matzkin, MD

Since the passage of Title IX in 1972, there has been a dramatic increase in female athletic participation. There also has been a corresponding increase in the number of female athletes experiencing injuries. Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are of particular concern in women.

Elizabeth G. Matzkin, MD, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, explains why female athletes are at greater risk for ACL injuries. Though ACL reconstruction surgery can repair these injuries in the short term, many women may face an increased risk of arthritis in their knees as they age.

In this video, Dr. Matzkin advises female athletes on how they can reduce their risk of ACL injuries through proper training.

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Sports-Related Concussions: Increased Risk in Female Athletes?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital July 1, 2014

Some theories suggest women suffer more concussions due to physical differences.

Today’s post was adapted from an article written for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons by Dr. Xuan Luo, an orthopedic resident in the Harvard Combined Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program; Emily Curry, BA, research assistant for the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital  (BWH); and Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the BWH Women’s Sports Medicine Program and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics.

Approximately five percent of high school athletes will sustain a concussion each year. Equally concerning is that several studies have found that female athletes may experience significantly more concussions than male athletes. In some studies, the number of concussions sustained by female athletes was estimated to be double that sustained by male athletes. The concussion differences between men and women were most commonly seen in basketball, soccer, and volleyball. Research has suggested that female athletes may also suffer more severe concussions, leading to a greater impact on cognitive function (thinking abilities) and longer recovery periods.

Some theories suggest women suffer more concussions due to physical differences. Because women have more slender necks and smaller heads, they can experience nearly 50 percent more head acceleration during head trauma. In addition to physical differences, hormonal differences may also lead to more concussion symptoms in women versus men. Progesterone levels may contribute to and worsen post-concussion symptoms (headache, nausea, dizziness).

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Last-Minute Tips for Marathon Runners

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital April 3, 2014

Make sure that you're prepared for race day before you head to Hopkinton – and the finish line. (Photo by Steve Gilbert)

Last month, Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Women’s Sports Medicine Program and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, offered runners important advice on how to prevent overuse injuries, which account for over 20 percent of running injuries in the leg. Now, with the Boston Marathon only days away, she has some last-minute tips for avoiding injuries and other problems on race day.

Hopefully, you and the thousands of runners training for the Marathon have avoided the most common overuse injuries of the legs by having trained properly over the past few months. The numerous hours and miles of training are now complete, and the last bits of preparation can begin.

Here are a few last-minute tips for avoiding injuries and other problems on April 21:

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Preventing Overuse Injuries – Tips for Runners

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 25, 2014

Increasing your training slowly is important for helping to prevent overuse injuries.

As the weather warms up in the Northeast, many runners are either gearing up for the Boston Marathon or just heading out for an enjoyable jog around the neighborhood. Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Women’s Sports Medicine Program and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, has some important advice for these runners on how to prevent overuse injuries, which account for over 20 percent of running injuries in the leg.

Overuse injuries can be largely prevented with proper training. The most important thing to remember is to increase your training slowly – by about 10 percent per week. This gradual approach allows your muscles, tendons, and bones to sufficiently react and adapt to the stress you’re introducing.

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Stress Fractures in Women Who Exercise: A Red Flag?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 28, 2014

Females who regularly exercise and experience repeat stress fractures may not be consuming enough calories and nutrients.

Today’s post was adapted from an article written for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons by Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Emily Curry, BA,  research assistant for the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.

If you are a female who regularly exercises and experiences repeat stress fractures, take note. You may not be consuming enough calories and nutrients to sustain your current activity level.

“We are seeing more and more female athletes, including recreational athletes, with stress fractures accompanied by low energy, irregular periods, and/or decreased bone density,” says Dr. Matzkin.

Inadequate nutrition intake, abnormal menstruation, and premature bone loss are components of a spectrum of interrelated medical issues that make up what is known as the Female Athlete Triad. A stress fracture is a common symptom of the Female Athlete Triad.

“Because bone loss cannot be reversed, these women are at risk for osteoporosis, which can lead to repeat fractures and serious bone issues down the line,” explains Dr. Matzkin. “That is why it is so important to recognize and address the Female Athlete Triad as quickly as possible.”

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Being Fit: Does Size Matter?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 23, 2013

Playing sports or being athletic doesn’t always translate into being healthy.

Today’s post, written by Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on  A Nation in Motion, sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Are bigger athletes stronger? Are thinner athletes faster? Not necessarily – different body types provide advantages in different sports. Contact athletes, such as football linemen, are often bigger compared to endurance athletes, such as cross country runners, who may be leaner. Unfortunately, neither extreme may be healthy. Being too lean or too overweight can result in health problems. Athletes need to supply the appropriate amount of energy and nutrition their body needs for their particular sport to achieve optimal health and performance.

Gaining weight does not equate to becoming stronger. Excess body weight can lead to increased blood pressure, increased cholesterol, and possible bone problems. Overweight athletes are at increased risk of injury to their muscles, bones, and joints, and their hearts have to work harder to keep blood flowing.

In contrast, being thinner does not equate to being more fit. These athletes are at higher risk of musculoskeletal injuries, such as stress fractures, as well as strains on the cardiovascular system. Female athletes who do not eat enough will have problems associated with “the female athlete triad” – low energy availability, amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods), and low bone mineral density.

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Treating Injury and Pain: Ice or Heat?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 5, 2013

Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat.

Today’s medical information comes from Elizabeth Matzkin, MD, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and recently appointed Team Physician for Stonehill College Athletics, and Kaitlyn Whitlock, PA-C, physician assistant in the Women’s Sports Medicine Program.

Often when someone gets injured or feels pain, they wonder whether to treat it with cold or heat. Below are a few simple guidelines to help you determine which approach to take.

What should you do if you get injured from a fall or collide with something/someone?

The answer is ICE. Injuries that occur after a twist, fall, or collision may produce localized swelling and bleeding. Treating the affected area(s) immediately with ice will work as a vasoconstrictor (narrowing blood vessels), limiting the amount of bleeding and decreasing inflammation. Decreasing inflammation also will decrease pain. Heat, on the other hand will expand the blood vessels, causing more bleeding and pain.

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I Can’t Lose Weight – My Knee Hurts!

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital October 23, 2013

An orthopedic specialist can help you identify the cause of your knee pain and work with you to develop a treatment plan that will keep you moving.

Today’s post, written by Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on  A Nation in Motion, sponsored by the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

I hear this all the time – “I’m trying to lose weight – but I can’t exercise because my knee hurts.”  It’s a never-ending cycle that needs to be broken!

More than 36 percent of adults and 17 percent of children in the US are obese, which is a far too common problem. Obesity causes an increased load on your muscles and joints. The knee joint feels five times your body weight with each step you take – so a weight loss of even five pounds can feel like a 25-pound weight loss to your knee, helping to reduce your knee pain.

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Young Female Athletes in Danger of Osteoporosis?

Posted by Blog Administrator March 16, 2012

female athlete

Female athlete triad involves inadequate nutrient intake, irregular menstrual cycles, and premature bone loss (osteoporosis).

A 19-year-old who used to run three-to-seven miles a day, Laura now feels pain and limps even when walking. Jessica is a competitive college lacrosse player who has repeatedly sat on the sidelines during the past two seasons with foot pain. Both women are being treated for stress fractures, but they also share increased risk for a condition that can lead to irreversible loss of bone density if not recognized and treated early.

Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains that, while stress fractures are among the most common sports injuries in women, they also are a potential indicator of the female athlete triad. The female athlete triad is a common spectrum of interrelated issues, including inadequate nutrient intake, irregular menstrual cycles, and premature bone loss (osteoporosis), which can result in long-term, irreversible loss of bone density.  Both competitive and recreational female athletes can be found to have problems related to the female athlete triad.

“Laura and Jessica are expected to fully recover from their stress fractures and resume their athletic activities, but they also are being closely evaluated for underlying problems associated with the female athlete triad,” said Dr. Matzkin. “It is critical that this condition be recognized and treated early because lost bone density can never be replaced. Without intervention, women with unrecognized signs of the female athlete triad are at risk for repeat stress fractures and serious bone issues later in life.”

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