The female athlete
The female athlete The female body is an amazing, intricately connected machine that is regularly put to the test throughout the lifespan. Add in high level exercise where the body is pushed to its limit and the female body becomes even more interesting.
This is why at The Physiotherapy Clinic we absolutely love working with female athletes. We want to empower women to understand their body, how their body changes throughout the lifespan and how to continually demand a lot of their body.
So often we hear questions like ‘can I exercise during pregnancy?’, ‘how do I get back to exercise after having my baby?’, ‘how do I plan my training?’ and the classic ‘how do I know if I’m doing my pelvic exercises properly?’. These questions have many, varied responses but we want to help answer them, based on the individual, their history and their exercise goals.
When you work with female athletes for a while you start to notice patterns which help us answer these common questions. The first case is that of the athlete with ‘tight’ or overactive pelvic floor muscles. The athlete commonly complains of hip pain, unrelenting SIJ pain, pain with sex and period pain. But why do the pelvic floor muscles get tight in the first place?
There can be many contributing factors to pelvic floor overactivity. Often we see women who have never learnt to fully ‘let go’ of their pelvic floor and due to the intensity of their training are used to gripping and turning their pelvic floor on at all times. This is actually a form of pelvic floor dysfunction! Your pelvic floor should turn on, come up and then fully let go, and this is how it should stay.
Once the pelvic floor has been taught to relax and there is strength throughout range, the next question is why was the tension there in the first place? And this is where it becomes more tricky. Tension can arise from lack of strength or overuse, but can also be a result of something happening at the uterus, which is sometimes experienced as heavy painful periods or no periods at all.
The other pattern we see and are vigilant in watching for is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). RED-s can occur on a metabolic level when energy input fails to meet energy requirements and things start to break down in lots of different ways. Signs of RED-s can be a loss of menstruation, bone stress injuries, fatigue, an inability to focus and a decrease in performance. RED-s can have long term effects on the female body which is why we monitor our female athletes and liaise with other medical professionals including sports physicians and dietitians to ensure the energy demands of training are consistently met.
We want our female athletes in the shire (Woolooware), Bondi Junction and Cammeray to excel and we do this by making sure there is nothing in their bodies holding them back!