Study: Birth control pills may protect women from sprains and strains

Women taking oral contraceptives were 85% less likely than men to injure a muscle or tendon

Women who take birth control pills may be much less likely to experience two of the most common sports injuries. In fact, a new study showed women taking oral contraceptives were 85% less likely than men to sprain their muscles or strain their tendons.

Researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Cente studied data from more than 126,000 patients for their study, which was announced Monday.

The study used orthopedic injury data from the national health care database PearlDiver to compare the rates at which men, women prescribed oral contraceptives and women not on the pill received musculotendinous injuries.

“This research offers valuable insights into how synthetic sex hormones may mitigate the risk of musculotendinous injuries in women, thereby advancing both preventive strategies and clinical interventions for a wide range of populations,” Yasin Dhaher, Ph.D., professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation and orthopaedic Surgery at UT Southwestern, said in a news release.

Roughly 0.5% of women on the pill experienced a sprain or strain, while 2.5% of women not taking the pill suffered similar injuries. A total of 3.5% of men featured in the study experienced sprains or strains. Women not on the pill were 26% less likely than men to suffer similar injuries, unlike the aforementioned 85% taking the contraceptive.

“The results indicate that maintaining stable endogenous hormone levels through (oral contraception) or exposure to synthetic hormones in OC, may confer protective benefits against musculotendinous injuries in females,” Luis Rodriguez, a Ph.D. candidate in the joint biomedical engineering graduate program between UT Dallas and UT Southwestern, said in a news release.

“This understanding holds promise for informing the development of targeted preventive strategies and interventions aimed at reducing injury risk in women, benefiting both athletic and nonathletic populations.”

In addition, researchers added, the findings could shed a light on injury risks among women with polycystic ovary syndrome, menstrual cycle dysfunction, postmenopausal hormonal changes and other hormone imbalances.