The new Sentara Sports Medicine Center at Sentara Martha Jefferson Hospital treats athletes of all ages and abilities. However, the physicians at the center note that when taking care of female athletes, there are certain things they make sure to keep an eye out for, as women are different than men.

“The female athlete is different from the male athlete in terms of their body and physiology,” noted Dr. Matt Panzarella, a sports medicine physician at the Sentara Sports Medicine Center. “So their muscles and bones and ligaments are different.”

Doctors say that many of the differences come in to play due to differences in body structures.

“They're less muscular, they have more laxity in their joints,” said Dr. Panzarella. “For example, in the knee, the knee cap can pop over a little easier because of the laxity, as well as the lack of muscle.”

Hormone changes can also effect women, so working with them in a proactive manner to prevent issues is also important to the physicians.

“The female hormones can change, or at least they can be altered by high intensity athletics,” noted Dr. Panzarella.;“Females can have their menstrual cycle either spread out or it can cease to exist completely and those women can be at risk for stress fractures, as well as having lower bone density and thus more fractures later in life.”

Whether it’s through prevention programs, or rehab following an injury, the care is always individualized to help get female athletes back in their game.

“We know the female athlete is unique and we want to treat them accordingly to get them the best possible outcome,” said Dr. Panzarella.

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