Southcoast Health: Tips for Women & Sports
Young women today have a greater opportunity than ever to take advantage of opportunities in organized sports. Studies have shown many benefits for female sport participation, including a lowered rate of teen pregnancy.
Here are a few things that female athletes can do to promote their health and safety:
- Females need to pay attention to good nutrition during participation in sports. There is a misconception that “thinner is better” in sports, but muscle actually breaks down during weight loss, reducing strength and endurance.
- Females need adequate calcium consumption during the teen years. Teen female athletes sometimes put themselves at risk for the development of osteoporosis and other problems when they exercise intensely and do not get enough calcium in their diet. Good sources are greens, milk, yogurt and other dairy products.
- Female athletes are at increased risk for knee injuries, such as anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears. To help prevent these injuries, it’s important to do strength and flexibility training, such as stretching and strengthening exercises that build leg muscle.
Pregnancy & the Female Athlete
Pregnancy doesn’t have to hinder your current physical activity and sport participation. However, pregnancy does cause many changes in your body, and some special considerations must not be ignored.
It is important to talk to your OB-GYN for specific guidelines before beginning an exercise program to make sure you don’t have a health condition that may restrict your activity.
Special precautions during exercise include:
- Heart rate: Keep your exercise at a moderate level. If you can’t talk normally while you exercise, then your exercise is too strenuous.
- Body temperature: Avoid becoming overheated during pregnancy. Avoid exercising in hot and humid weather conditions, and drink plenty of water to help prevent dehydration.
- After the first trimester of pregnancy: Avoid doing exercises while flat on your back. This position can interfere with proper blood circulation.
- Hormones: Hormones being produced during pregnancy cause a relaxation of the ligaments. As a result, the joints are more lax and at a higher risk for injury, so you should avoid activities that involve bouncing, jerking or high impact.
- Balance: Especially in the last few months of pregnancy, the extra weight creates a change in your body’s center of gravity. Avoid activities that place you off-balance or at risk for falling.
- Warning signs: Stop exercise and contact your physician if you have any of these symptoms:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Vaginal bleeding
- Difficulty walking
- Dizziness or feeling faint
- Uterine contractions
- Increased shortness of breath
- Fluid leaking from the vagina
Southcoast Health offers many resources for female athletes in and around Fall River, Dartmouth, New Bedford, Wareham, MA and across Rhode Island.