Sex and Musculoskeletal Health in Tandem

GENDER differences between males and females have been found to extend to their bone and joint conditions, while improved education of patients and doctors about risks and prevention may yield superior clinical results.

Women normally have a higher incidence of osteoporosis-related hip fractures, but have a lower rate of mortality than men with the same fracture. As doctors are not always aware of such gender differences in musculoskeletal disorders, the patients particularly at risk are not always recognised and treated as such. In the case of osteoporosis, doctors do not recognise or treat the condition in men as often as in women.

The research highlights the importance of healthcare professionals understanding these differences and recognising how multiple factors may contribute to musculoskeletal conditions and injuries. “Knowing that there are differences in incidences and presentation between males and females is an important part of diagnosing and treating patients,” said Dr Jennifer Moriatis Wolf, Associate Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, UConn Musculoskeletal Institute, UConn Health UConn Musculoskeletal Institute, Farmington, Connecticut, USA. “Identifying both similarities and differences will allow healthcare providers to deliver better care to every orthopaedic patient.”

The researchers emphasised the profound differences in the incidence of several common musculoskeletal disorders between the two sexes: anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries are 2-8 times more common in females, who are also 5-8 times more likely than males to suffer an ACL injury in high-intensity sports that require sudden changes in motion, such as football and basketball. Ankle sprains are twice as common in females, osteoarthritis of the knee is more common in females, and metacarpal and phalangeal fractures are more common in males.

The results of this study should therefore increase the understanding of differences between males and females in regard to musculoskeletal disorders, contributing to better care of individual patients, and to a higher index of suspicion for injury for certain diagnoses such as ACL tears.

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