Duke Female Athlete Program

Injury Prevention and Treatment, Management of Health Concerns Unique to Female Athletes

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Duke sports medicine specialists help female athletes of all ages and performance levels stay healthy, recover from injury, prevent future injury, and achieve personal well-being. Our team includes health professionals who are former and current female athletes, as well as specialists who regularly treat athletes. Together, we provide the compassionate, personalized care you need to avoid reinjury, maintain optimal bone and joint health, and reach your athletic potential.

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Females Are at Greater Risk for Some Sports Injuries Than Men

Research shows that women are more prone than men to certain sports injuries including ankle sprains, knee injuries such as ACL tears, and stress fractures. A variety of factors may be at play, including differences in hormone levels and body mechanics. Studies also find that women jump and move differently than men, which may contribute to increased injury risk. 

Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDS)
When the food and nutrients you consume are not sufficient to support your energy needs, you are underfueled. Training in an underfueled state for a prolonged time can lead to REDS. Formerly known as the female athlete triad, REDS is now recognized as a syndrome that affects health and performance. Metabolism, reproductive function, musculoskeletal health, immunity, cardiovascular health, and more can all be negatively affected by REDS. These health issues can increase the risk of injury, decrease sports performance, and negatively affect your well-being.

Our Locations

Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.

Team-Based Care for the Female Athlete

Our team includes experts in sports medicine, orthopaedics, physical therapy, women’s health, endocrinology, and nutrition to provide care for more than just your injury. We identify physical or psychological factors can be addressed to improve your overall health and reduce future injury risk. We individualize your care to meet your needs and ensure that you reach your athletic potential. Our areas of expertise include the following specialties.

Primary Care Sports Medicine Providers

Our primary care sports medicine providers not only have experience treating musculoskeletal conditions but can also provide comprehensive care for the female athlete. We identify risk factors for decreased performance and injury and treat new or ongoing sport-related medical conditions, ranging from iron deficiency to concussion. Our doctors coordinate care with specialists as needed. These include women’s health providers (ob-gyn specialists) and endocrinologists.

Orthopaedic Care

Our orthopaedic specialists address the full range of conditions including ACL tears; stress fractures; knee, shoulder, and hip pain and injury; and more. Nonsurgical approaches are typically our first recommendation, but if these treatments are not effective, our orthopaedic surgeons use the latest techniques to treat your injury and ensure you experience a fast and safe recovery.

Physical Therapy

Sports physical therapy can help you recover from injury and maximize your performance. We create personalized rehabilitation plans and strength and conditioning programs to address muscle imbalances, improve range of motion, and optimize movement. We also help you prevent future injuries by addressing known risk factors specific to female athletes and educating you about proper body mechanics relevant to your sport or activity. 

Pregnancy and Postpartum Care

Pregnancy can change your posture and movement patterns. It can also weaken your pelvic floor muscles and cause urinary incontinence and other issues before and after you give birth. Our physical therapists perform movement screenings and strength, gait, and range-of-motion assessments to ensure you are performing your activities optimally to minimize risk of injury. We create training programs that strengthen your pelvic floor and allow you to return to your sport safely after pregnancy. If needed, you may also work with a nutritionist to ensure you are eating right during pregnancy. 

Premenopausal Bone Health Care and Osteoporosis Prevention

Frequent stress fractures may be a sign of low bone density, a signal of early osteoporosis that can increase your risk for fractures. Our providers coordinate your care with endocrinologists who are experts in diagnosing and treating osteoporosis. We recommend tailored treatment plans to meet your needs. 

Nutritional Evaluation and Counseling

Fueling and eating well are important for maximizing your athletic potential. If you need help with your food and nutrition habits or are at risk for underfueling, our nutrition team can help. Our personalized fueling and nutrition plans – including vegetarian and vegan plans – give you the energy you need during workouts and competition and help you recover. We address iron and nutrient deficiencies, sport-related GI distress, low energy, and more. We also perform body composition assessments and offer nutritional supplement and omega-3 fatty acid evaluations. 

Concussion Testing

We offer concussion testing for female athletes, who are twice as likely to experience concussions as men.

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Improving Your Sports Performance

Helping you achieve your highest athletic potential is one of our goals. The experts in Duke Sports Performance offer VO2 max testing, lactate threshold evaluations, and sports-specific movement screenings. We also offer programs to help you maximize your athletic potential while reducing your risk of injury. Services include speed and agility training, strength and conditioning, skill training for your sport, and more. 

Duke "D" logo
Official Team Doctors

Duke sports medicine specialists are the official team doctors for all Duke sports teams.

Why Choose Duke

A Team of Female Athlete Specialists
Many of our sports medicine specialists are official providers for Duke sports teams. We also work with nearby universities, local sports leagues, road races, and other organizations to keep their athletes at the top of their game. Most of our providers are current or former athletes and understand how important being healthy and active is to your quality of life. 

Easy Referrals to Other Duke Specialists
If you need other specialty care, we can direct you to our network of Duke Health specialists -- from mental health experts to cardiologists -- who are also committed to caring for the female athlete. As part of a nationally ranked medical center, you have access to the latest research, technology, and medical advances, many of which were discovered at Duke Health.

More Than 20 Years of Experience Treating Female Athletes
Duke opened one of the first women's sports medicine programs in the country more than 20 years ago. It focused on rehabilitation and injury prevention injuries in women of all ages. The Duke Female Athlete Program builds on our previous success and now provides the latest diagnostic tools and treatments to keep female athletes of all ages healthy. 

This page was medically reviewed on 10/03/2023 by