During the 19th century, Australia’s British rulers created a strict society, whose antiquated cultural norms restricted women to playing parlour games as a form of recreation. Of course, these ridiculous social mores were a joke. The pioneer lifestyle required men and women to become experts in horseback riding, shooting, rowing, archery and swimming. Australian women come from strong stock, as evidenced by their continued impressive success in the Olympic Games.
A History of Australian Women in Sport
With the arrival of the 20th century and the formation of Australia’s Federation, athletic competition became a vehicle for this new nation to gain international respect. The desire for worldwide recognition trumped any form of sexism. Successful athletes of either gender were elevated to national icon status. In fact, Australia hosted the first bike race for women, which took place in the world’s first bike race for women, which took place at Ashfield, an inner suburb of Sydney, in 1888. The first Australian golf championship for either gender was the Australian Ladies’ Championship, which was held in Victoria in August 1894.
During the 1920s, a controlling body was formed for women’s amateur golf, but the female athletes were only granted associate memberships, and they were only allowed access to the course on specific days of the week. Swimming was also permitted, but only during certain hours of the day and days of the week. The required neck to knee swimwear discouraged efficient movement.
Treating the Aussie Female Athlete
Despite the odds against them, the women of Australia continued to thrive as world-class athletes, but research regarding their unique physiotherapy needs required a relatively new field of study. The iconic Female Athlete Triad — which takes into account the adverse effects associated with under-eating, over-training and early cessation of the menstrual cycle – represents just one aspect of a much larger picture.
The Female Body Structure
Structurally, most female athletes have a wider pelvis than their male counterpart. This factor alone might alter their static knee and hip alignment, causing her hips to rotate internally toward the midline, and her lower legs to rotate outward away from the mid line of her body. The female athlete also has a greater tendency toward pronation of the feet. All of these deviations from ideal postural alignment contribute to overload – and ultimately injury – of the knee, hip and ankle.
Ligament Laxity in the Female Athlete
Hyperlaxity of ligaments is uncommon in male athletes, but prevalent in their female counterparts. The higher estrogen levels in the female body take responsibility for this phenomenon. Some researchers believe that the higher estrogen levels present during the ovulation phase of menstruation increase the female athlete’s susceptibility toward ligament injury; particularly vulnerable ligaments such as the ACL.
Just as the Female Athlete Triad triggers a vicious cycle, with under-eating and over-training disrupting the menstrual cycle, the disrupted menstrual cycle triggering osteoporosis, ligament laxity in the female athlete created joint hypermobility and instability, which, once again, increases susceptibility to injury. Since joint stability is essential to balance, coordination, proprioception and athletic success, it behooves the female athlete to work with a qualified physiotherapist and overcome any structural problems.
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