The Special Needs of Women Who Exercise and Compete in Sports

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Why a talk about the female athlete?

This patient population has unique challenges and as health care professionals we need to recognize these special needs and challenges and be empathetic towards them and we need to be educated enough about them not to miss them, should they be part of what one of our patients presents with. Often the symptoms are not mentioned or even acknowledged and often the symptoms are subtle. If left undiagnosed for too long, they wreak havoc with a woman’s health and performance. We need to be exquisitely aware of the risks and problems these needs produce, and be equipped to pick up a problem in its early stages if possible.

What are these unique risks female athletes face?

  • They are at high risk for suffering from psychiatric disorders like anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, disordered eating and body dysmorphia, among many others.
  • Many female athletes suffer from the female triad, which is a medical condition that involves three intertwined and interrelated conditions, all of which need to be diagnosed and treated as early as possible to avoid permanent damage to the fertility, bone architecture, psychological health and the neuro-endocrine system of the body. If the health care professionals taking care of these athletes aren’t aware of the conditions, they will be at risk of remaining undiagnosed and not receiving the treatment required to restore their health and enable their sustainable performance and participation in sports.
  • Ongoing strain, both physically and mentally, may lead to faulty recruitment patterns and pelvic floor dysfunction is often an outcome. The prevalence of pelvic floor dysfunction among female athletes is extremely high and it may lead to: pain, dysfunction, incontinence, sexual dysfunction and injuries further down the kinetic chain and the longer it is left undiagnosed and untreated, the harder it is to rehabilitate this crucial muscle. Without adequate expertise, those treating these female athletes remain unable to restore pelvic health and this may implicate performance adversely and add to stress and psychological challenges.
  • Female athletes are at risk of suffering from disordered eating, low energy availability and relative energy insufficiency in sport (RED-S). This causes a cascade of problems from pelvic floor dysfunction to hypothalamic dysmenorrhea, osteoporosis and many others. Health care professionals who work with female athletes need to be able to recognize energy deficiency and help to work to unravel it, through referral, education, awareness and providing empathetic support.

Knowledge is power, awareness is key, and this is a subject many health care providers know very little about. Get the insight you need so your female patients who are also athletes can benefit, by signing up to this online course. Let’s discover together!

 

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