Estrogen May Affect Injury Risk in Female Athletes

Estrogen levels in female athletes may affect injury risks

Female athletes with higher than normal estrogen levels, may have an increased risk of injury due to differences in tendons according to a study in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Some researchers recommend evaluating estrogen levels of female athletes to assist in injury prevention when making exercise programs. Also, the study did not notice differences in hormone levels during a menstrual cycle to influence the risk of injury.

To determine the impact of the menstrual cycle on injury risk, researchers analyzed the patellar tendon in 23 young women who were active. Research was gathered at various points during the menstrual cycle: between days 1 and 4, days 12 to 14, and days 20 to 23 after menses.

Fluctuations in hormone levels were measured as well. No women in the study were taking an oral contraceptive, as they alter different hormone levels.

No differences in tendon properties were evident at any point during the menstrual cycle. This research paralleled past evidence suggesting the menstrual cycle has no significant role on strength or risk of injury.

However, changes in hormone levels, especially estradiol, accounted for almost 20 percent of variation of tendon stiffness. This data helps researchers believe injury risk may be directly related to specific hormone levels in female athletes.

Past studies have shown a link between injury risk and the menstrual cycle in women. If true, risk of injury may be increased at certain points during the menstrual cycle when hormone levels are exceptionally high (right before menstruation).

However, this new study fails to support that theory. Researchers explain that risk factors remain unchanged throughout the menstrual cycle, and no special consideration should be noted when creating training programs for female athletes.

Results from this study do suggest a change in tendon properties based on certain hormone levels, however. The risk of injury may be increased in women with higher estrogen levels. Experts explain, further research is required to draw a firm conclusion on this study.