Wednesday, August 17, 2011

One in Four Women Runners are Running in Pain

When you are standing in line to start a race and wondering if you are the only one feeling musculoskeletal pain – even before the race  - rest assured that you are not!  Researchers from the São Paulo Running Injury Group in Brazil asked more than 10,000 runners who were about to run a 5k or a 10k race about the if they had any bone, joint, or muscle pain.  Runners in pain then reported the location, duration, and intensity of the pain together with some demographic information.

Although women generally ran fewer miles per week, they reported more pain than men. 20% of the 796 male respondents and 27% of the 253 female respondents had pain before running.  

So more than one in four women runners are in pain before they run.  This study suggests that we need to take a hard look at what motivates runners to compete despite existing pain and if such behaviors contribute to long recovery times and chronic injury patterns.

Read an abstract of the study here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Articular Cartilage Injury after ACL Rupture is more Common in Men than Women

While ACL rupture is itself a significant and common athletic injury in women, it can be compounded by injury to the articular cartilage which has been shown to increase the risk of subsequent arthritis.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Sports Medicine a group of researchers from the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at Akershus University Hospital in Norway used a remarkable registry containing details of 15783 primary unilateral anterior cruciate ligament reconstructions (42% on women) performed in Sweden and Norway between 2005-2008.  This represents 97% and 90% of all primary ACL reconstructions performed in Norway and Sweden respectively.

The results showed that men were about 20% more likely to experience injury to articular cartilage than women.  In addition, increased time from injury to surgery and a history of prior knee surgery were also risk factors.

So this is one relatively bright spot is the otherwise high burden of knee injury that women athletes experience.

Read the abstract of the study here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Vitamin D is important for fracture prevention in post-menopausal women

Many studies have demonstrated that Vitamin D plays a key role in bone health in women. But what about women who already have osteoporosis? Recently, a group of researchers at Shinshu University in Japan studied the
circulating form of vitamin D in the blood of 330 postmenopausal osteoporotic women who had no parathyroid disease (which itself elevates the risk of fracture). Their research, published in the  Journal of Orthopaedic Sciences, found that vitamin D insufficiency (less than 20 ng/mL) was associated with a number of markers of poor bone health and also with a history of vertebral fractures.

These results are further evidence of the importance for bone health of maintaining adequate levels of vitamin D during menopause in addition to other factors such as calcium supplementation, hormone replacement, and the use of anti-resorptive drugs.  A comprehensive guide to bone health and other issues for post-menopausal women can be found in the recommendations of the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada here.

Read the abstract of the research paper here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Head Impacts in Women Collegiate Ice Hockey Players

Historically, women hockey players have experienced higher rates of concussion than men.  A recent study from the Bioengineering Laboratory at Brown University  published in Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise used hockey helmets instrumented with shock sensing devices (accelerometers) to compare the severity of impacts that men and women collegiate players were subjected to during actual games. The results showed that although women hockey players received approximately the same number of hits as men, the severity of the impacts were significantly lower in women.  This was true for both linear and rotational accelerations. Because of the previous findings of higher concussion rates in women hockey players, these results suggest that the threshold for brain injury may be lower in women compared to men. 
Read the abstract of the study here

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Women Masters Marathon Runners Getting Faster!

A new study from the University of Burgundy in France suggests that women marathon runners over 40 years old are improving at a faster rate than men.  The authors compared the improvements in finishing times in the New York City Marathon for the top 10 men and women at every age between 20 and 79 from 1980-2009. While performance in the Masters category (over 35) for both sexes improved, women older than 44 years old showed significant improvement while improvement in the men’s group was only apparent in those over 64 years old.  The authors also noted that the gap between men’s and women’s finishing times has remained relatively unchanged during the last decade and conclude that age-related declines in physiological function do not differ between male and female marathoners.  They also speculated that Masters runners in general have not yet reached their limits in marathon performance which seems a pretty safe statement given historical trends. 

Read an abstract of the article here.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Occupational, household and recreational activity don't all help reduce risk of endometrial cancer

Again and again we come across studies that find physical activity decreases risk for various types of cancers, but it is less common to come across a study that compares occupational, household and recreational physical activities.

A team of researchers from the University of Calgary, Canada recently published an article in Cancer Causes and Control finding that in women, only recreational activity, specifically low-intensity activity reduced the risk of endometrial cancer. Furthermore, sedentary occupation increased risk with every 5 hours/week of sedentary activity.

The bottom line is to go out and have fun! Make time for yourself, get your blood flowing and decrease your risk of endometrial cancer and possibly other cancers as well.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Grab your helmet when you hit the slopes

As the ski and snowboarding season approaches, here is something to think about. Globally, it is reported by ski patrols and ER departments that head injuries account for 9% to 19%, and neck injuries for 1% to 4%, of all injuries. Head and neck injuries are the most common cause of severe trauma, death and serious injury among skiers and snowboarders, but the incidence of injury can be reduced.

Researchers from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at the University of Calgary, Canada performed a literature review with meta-analysis to determine if helmet use affected the incidence of head and neck injuries.  The researchers found that helmets do reduce head injuries and do not increase neck injuries. The article was recently published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

The bottom line is clear that helmets should be worn by skiers and snowboarders, regardless of age or experience.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Indoor cycling and mild calorie restriction improve health profile

A sedentary lifestyle is a behavior clearly identified with an unfavorable lipid profile and being overweight or obese. Exercise and diet are often recommended for weight loss and to improve cardiovascular health, but many people don’t know where to start. Here researchers find clear and beneficial results testing a specific protocol that modestly decreases calories by 175-200 kcal/day and requires moderate intensity exercise (55-85% HR max) on an indoor bike for 45-minutes, 3 times/week.

Researchers from the Human Biomechanics Laboratory at the Universidade Castelo Branco, Brazil published an article concluding that modest calorie restriction and moderate exercise can result in weight loss and improve blood lipid profile. Forty young and overweight women participated in the 12-week study.

The message is clear that diet with calorie restriction (1200 kcal/week) and indoor cycling (three 45-minutes sessions/week) proved to be an excellent strategy to reduce weight and improve blood lipid/cholesterol profile.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Post-partum physical therapy for mental and physical well-being

Post-partum depression isn’t uncommon after childbirth, but it usually passes within a few weeks. Depression can occur due to many reasons, including physical well-being. Here, researchers compare the effects of a group-based physical therapy and education program vs. a group based education program alone in 161 post-partum mothers.

Researchers from the University of Melborne, Australia, recently published the article in Physical Therapy finding that exercise-based post-partum physical therapy reduces depression by as much as 50%.

The message here is that exercise can do more than help your physical well-being; it can help your emotional state too. Speak to your physician about rehabilitation after post-partum and enjoy this special time in your life.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Girl's recreational gymnastics can have long-term benefits on bone density

Bone density is a topic that frequently recurs because it is important, and women are especially at risk to bone loss. Although a genetic predisposition to low bone density may exist, appropriate exercise and a well-balanced diet play important roles. Bones are believed to primarily increase in density up to a certain age (early 20’s), and then we must maintain bone mass as best we can in the years that follow. Participating in gymnastics from a young age is known to result in increased bone strength and density.

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan, Canada, recently published an article in Osteoporosis International concluding that even recreational young female gymnasts benefit in long-term effects on bone density vs. non-gymnasts.

The researchers measured total body, hip, and spine bone mineral content (BMC) in 120 children, ages 4-9 years: 29 gymnasts, 46 ex-gymnasts, and 45 non-gymnasts. They found that both gymnasts and ex-gymnast had 5% greater adjusted total body BMC that the young non-gymnasts.

Given the young age of the population observed, a 5% change in bone mineral content is very significant. The bottom line is to provide kids time, space and a safe environment for cartwheels, tumbling and bouncing around. It may have a significant impact on their health for years to come.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Fatigue affects dynamic knee joint stability in women

Female athletes often sustain knee injuries, so physiologists investigated knee stability in fatigued and non-fatigued conditions. Researchers from the School of Health Professions at the University of Puerto Rico-Medical Sciences Center recently published an article in the NSCA’s Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, stating that fatigue can increase the risk of knee injury in female athletes by decreasing dynamic knee joint stability.

Fifteen young women (mean age: 24.6 +/- 2.6 years) performed two tasks in a non-fatigued test session and a fatigued session. During both sessions, knee landing flexion, knee extension, joint angles and muscle activity of the quadriceps and hamstrings were measured. The first task was a single-leg drop jump from a 40-cm box, and the second was a repeated up/down hop on a 20-cm box. An anaerobic Wingate protocol was used to induce fatigue. Participants had greater knee injury-predisposing factors during the fatigued session. Specifically, a decrease in knee flexion during the up/down hop was statistically significant (p = 0.028).

The bottom line is that fatigue can increase the risk of injury. To mitigate this risk, athletes should incorporate strength-endurance components with emphasis on dynamic knee stability to increase control of body movements even when fatigued.

Read an abstract of the article here.

Monday, April 11, 2011

High heels may alter anatomy and pose health risks

High heels help women to look and feel gorgeous, but new research warns of long-term health risks associated with wearing high heels.

Researchers from the Institute for Biomedical Research into Human Movement and Health, Manchester Metropolitan University, U.K., recently published an article in the Journal of Experimental Biology concluding that long-term use of high-heeled shoes induces shortening of the Gastrocnemius medialis (calf) muscle and increases Achilles tendon stiffness, reducing the ankle's active range of motion.

The incline of high heels causes the calf muscles to contract. Over time, the muscle fibers shorten and the Achilles tendon thickens, so much that women may feel pain when they try to walk in flats or sneakers. In addition to the shortening of the calf muscle and stiffening of the ankle, aching feet and a variety of foot deformities are possible.

The bottom line is that if you must wear heels, minimize the time you spend wearing and walking in them. Make sure you spend plenty of time in comfortable, supportive flat shoes with good arch support.

For more information on foot health, visit the American Podiatric Medical Association, and visit for further coverage.

Read an abstract of the article here.