Women are more likely than men to suffer from knee injuries, but the pill can help level the playing field
When it comes to knee critical knee issues, women are somewhere between 1.5 and 2 times as likely to suffer an injury like a torn ACL. Thanks, biology.
But according to a new Medicine and Science In Sports and Exercise study, taking the pill might help female athletes and gym-goers recover faster. Women who were on the pill were significantly less likely to need corrective surgery for a knee injury.
To take a look at the reasons behind the higher rates of knee problems in women, a team of researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston examined the insurance and prescription data of over 23,000 women between the ages of 15 and 19 (which is the group with the highest risk of ACL injury). Interestingly, they found that those with the worst injuries (who needed to go under the knife for reconstructive knee surgery) were 22 percent less likely to be on the pill than their non-injured counterparts. (Check out The Most Common Birth Control Side Effects.)
So what does being on the pill have to do with having stronger knees? According to the researchers, the estrogen coursing through your body—especially during puberty or while you're on your period—is largely to blame for the extra injury vulnerability. The hormone tends to weaken the ligaments in your knees making injuries more likely to happen.
But the birth control pill regulates your estrogen levels, making them lower and more consistent overall. No more ligament weakness means no more knee problems. (Still have knee pain? Try these 10 Knee-Friendly Lower Body Exercises.)
This doesn't necessarily mean you should go on the pill just to help you perfect a pain-free squat, but it does have interesting implications for female athletes. If you're worried about your knees every time you hit the field with your rec soccer league, it might be worth talking to your doc.