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Top 10 Exercise Injuries For Women

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Exercise injuries are as common as exercise itself, whether it be women or men doing the exercise. In coming articles, I will discuss injury prevention for each of the 10 exercise injuries that will be discussed in this article.

According to a study published by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “the incidence of exercise-related injury among women in the civilian population is not well documented. Civilian studies of male and female exercise participants provide some indication of the frequency of such injuries. Surveys demonstrate that the incidence of self-reported running-related injury is high. Annually, approximately 25%-65% of male and female runners report being injured to the extent that they reduced or stopped training.”

With this study as background, my experience as a trainer has been that many women’s’ exercise injuries are running-related, posture-related or due to training overload.

The Top 10 Exercise Injuries

1. Muscle strains, sprains and tears. Soft tissue injuries can lead to major injuries if left untreated. Treatment of any soft tissue injury during the first 24 to 72 hours is important to offset any further injury and inflammation. The general rule of thumb is to use the R.I.C.E.R. principle (REST, ICE, COMPRESSION, ELEVATION, REFERRAL FOR MEDICAL ASSISTANCE). Many soft tissue injuries are a result of training overload. I will discuss some common injuries in a future article.

2. Knee anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries. The knee ACL is located within the capsule of the knee and connects the thigh bone (femur) to the shin bone (tibia). Females injure their ACLs at six times the rate of males. Females demonstrate a lower hamstring to quadricep ratio. This means they typically have weaker hamstrings compared to males. They also demonstrate different muscle activation patterns compared to males. Females are typically quadricep dominant which means they use their strong quadriceps muscles and do not use their weak hamstrings enough. Strength training for females should be adjusted to adequately strengthen the hamstrings.

3. Hamstring injuries. There are few injuries as bothersome and harder to recover from than hamstring injuries. Prevention of hamstring injuries is the best solution. Many times, the hip flexors are tight and they cause weakness in the gluteus maximus. This often leads to the hamstrings doing the work that the gluteus maximus should be doing. And, since the hamstrings are not equipped to handle this type of workload, injury to the hamstrings is the result.

4. Shin splints. Shin splints are much more than shin soreness. Shin soreness happens through overuse of your shins during training. Soreness can be treated with the R.I.C.E.R. principle. Shin splints refer to a medical condition called Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome (MTSS).

Problems with your tibia (shin bone), fibula and the many muscles that attach to them cause shin splints. There are two main causes of shin splints: overloading and biomechanical problems.

5. Foot injuries. Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendinitis are two of the most painful foot injuries that can be avoided. Plantar fasciitis happens when the long, flat ligament on the bottom of your foot (Plantar Fascia) stretches too much, small tears develop and the ligament inflames.

Achilles tendinitis is an inflammation of the Achilles tendon (the largest tendon in the body). The pain is felt just above the heel. The Achilles tendon connects the two major calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) to the heel bone (calcaneus) and it stabilizes your heel. Over-training is a major cause of these injuries.

6. Low back pain. Many people put too much emphasis on the front-side of their bodies with exercises like bench press and abdominal exercises. Your back is an important part of your core muscles so don't ignore them. It’s also important to maintain muscular balance between the front-side and back-side of your body.

Seventy to 80 percent of Americans have back pain (many times low back pain) at some point. The spine also needs to be protected. Doing exercises with incorrect technique causes many low back and trunk-related injuries.

7. Shoulder injuries. Three major shoulder injuries you want to avoid are frozen shoulder, shoulder tendonitis and rotator cuff injury. Frozen shoulder affects the shoulder joint capsule. Joint stiffness and loss of movement are the primary symptoms.

Shoulder tendonitis does not affect the joint capsule but does affect the muscles and tendons of the shoulder joint. Pain, weakness and inflammation accompany shoulder tendonitis. The two main causes are degeneration and wear and tear.

Rotator cuff injury can be a muscle strain or tear due to heavy lifting or excessive force being placed on the shoulder (such as wear and tear from throwing a ball). The larger the tear, the harder it is to lift or extend the arm. As with tendonitis, pain, weakness and inflammation accompany rotator cuff injuries. This condition also does not affect the joint capsule but does affect the muscles and tendons of the shoulder joint.

8. Piriformis Syndrome. The piriformis muscle lies deep to the gluteus maximus. It is often a neglected stretching area. Piriformis Syndrome is a condition in which this muscle irritates the sciatic nerve causing pain in the buttocks and referring pain along the sciatic nerve. This pain goes down the back of the thigh and/or into the lower back. Deep pain is often made worse by sitting, climbing or squatting. Keeping this area flexible is important to avoid Piriformis Syndrome.

9. Oblique muscle injuries. The external oblique are muscles on the side and front of the abdomen and wrap around your waist. The internal oblique are muscles that lie under the external oblique and run in the opposite direction. If you have ever pulled these muscles by twisting or turning too much, you know the pain and long recovery time.

10. Hip flexor Injuries. These injuries are very painful and the recovery time is long. Every move you make will involve your hips in some way so it’s best to take care of them. Long hours sitting at a desk (or any prolonged, daily sitting) puts you at risk for some fitness problems such as tight hip flexors. Besides, strains and pulls, tight hip flexors cause other problems (see Hamstring Injuries).

In coming articles, I will discuss ways to prevent these common exercise injuries.

Mark Dilworth, Certified Personal Trainer
Her Fitness Hut http://herfitnesshut.com

Add a Comment2 Comments

As a marathoner and coach in an international marathon/half marathon training program, I see so many of these injuries, largely from overuse and over-training. Admittedly, I've not been immune, myself (must be my competitive nature, lol!). But, some of these injuries are not just from exercising. Daily activities, gardening, sitting incorrectly, sleeping incorrectly, poor posture and constantly carrying heavy weight on one shoulder can also cause some of these injuries by throwing the body out of alignment and balance.

Something a lot of people don't think about!

Looking forward to your next segment.

August 13, 2009 - 7:24pm
(reply to alysiak)

Alysiak.....you are so right and well said! The body is meant to work a certain way and we get injured many times from doing things repetitively or doing things the wrong way.

August 13, 2009 - 9:47pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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