Generally males have a higher muscle to fat ratio than females after puberty, which is just one reason why their bodies are able to better tolerate the rigors of contact sports, such as football. The naturally higher level of testosterone in males adds muscle for greater strength, while girls, with a higher level of estrogen are usually more flexible which makes their ligaments more supple. While an advantage in some sports, this increased flexibility puts women at a higher injury risk in football since their lower muscle to fat ratio is less able to keep their joints in a stable, safe position.
Women must also train much harder to obtain similar physical strength, an advantage that men enjoy naturally. Such wear & tear can further put women’s bodies at risk of serious injuries. Painful injuries, such as ruptured anterior cruciate ligaments in their knees can lead to a life-long problem. Football-playing girls are also more likely to suffer from chronic knee pain, shin splints and stress fractures. Further, they are more prone to ankle sprains, as well as hip and lower back pain.
Women also move differently to men, in a more upright & less flexed position which can increase strain during actions such as, quick changes of direction, landing from jumps & body contact. The difference in woman’s hip design may also be another risk factor.
As for prevention, women need to accept their bodies are naturally different to men & understand how this impacts upon them when they choose to play football. Cross-training is just one option. Swimming, a non-weight-bearing exercise, helps strengthen muscles without over straining hip/knee joints.
Warming up correctly before training & using compressive joint supports to retain correct position of knee/ankle joints is essential for all sportsmen and women. In fact, compressive joint supports and thermomedic therapy garments may hold the key to the prevention of long-term, debilitating injury for sports players of all disciplines and ages.