The Female Athlete: Elevating Health and Performance : The Journal of Women's & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy

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The Female Athlete: Elevating Health and Performance

Christopher, Shefali M. PT, DPT, PhD; Special Issue Guest Editor

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Journal of Women's & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy 47(2):p 73-74, April/June 2023. | DOI: 10.1097/JWH.0000000000000278
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I am truly honored to be the guest editor for this special issue “The Female Athlete: Elevating Health and Performance” in the Journal of Women's & Pelvic Health Physical Therapy (JWPHPT). Thank you to Editor Cynthia Chiarello and the journal team for including me.

I started my career in sports medicine back in 2002 as an athletic training student at Denison University. While I learned about the nuances of evaluating and treating the athlete to ensure a successful return to sports, we didn't talk much about special considerations for the female athlete. I was lucky to learn under Carol Figuers, when I started my DPT journey at Duke University, who made sure that we understood and were mindful that there was more to treating the female athlete than just the basic musculoskeletal examination. She was also the first person to open my eyes to the world of pelvic health, something that was taboo to talk about during my whole precollege life growing up in India.

While I listened to Carol, I stayed away from the daunting world of pelvic health physical therapy for as long as I could. It was only after failing patients and navigating return to sports after childbirth myself that I realized that pelvic health should not just be a second thought when treating the athlete; pelvic health should be part of the basic musculoskeletal examination.

Over the last few years, I have worked with some phenomenal pelvic health physical therapists. I was lucky to work in the Duke Physical Therapy clinics where I interacted with several pelvic health physical therapy residents and clinician leaders in the field. Some of my favorite appointments were co-treats with Valerie Boyle, as she and I worked with the female runner bringing our specialties together to provide the highest level of care. It was probably why when I started my PhD, I decided to combine both specialties and investigate risk factors for running-related pain postpartum.

My work would be incomplete without my pelvic health colleagues. Most of my published work includes the brilliant Rita Deering, an incredible clinician and researcher in pelvic health physical therapy. I have been lucky to also collaborate with Amanda Olson, Sandi Gallagher, Grainne Donnelly, and Emma Brockwell. All this to say that my successes would not be possible without the expertise of a pelvic health trained physical therapist and the collaboration between both sports and pelvic health physical therapy.

While my goal is to make every sports physical therapist more comfortable with pelvic and women's health and every pelvic health trained physical therapist comfortable treating athletes, I am most proud of the fact that world famous manual therapist and my PhD supervisor Chad Cook can now speak the pelvic health lingo without his face contorting. I have also tried to make sure that each PT student I have interacted with considers the pelvic floor when treating the patient in front of them, and more importantly, refers patients to a pelvic health therapist to optimize their return to movement.

I want to thank all the authors who contributed to the call for this special issue. It is inspiring to see colleagues across the world coming together to improve care for our female athletes. Thank you to all the reviewers who spent countless hours assisting the authors fine tune their articles. I hope you enjoy this issue and continue to provide the female athlete with the best care possible.

—Shefali M. Christopher PT, DPT, PhD
Special Issue Guest Editor

Highlights in This Issue:

We are excited to present this special issue, “The Female Athlete: Elevating Health and Performance,” which epitomizes the coupling of sports and pelvic health physical therapy throughout the athlete's lifespan. We begin with a survey by Dr Hamilton and colleagues to identify variables associated with running-related urinary incontinence on running behavior and pregnancy/childbirth. Dr Kane and colleagues report on the prevalence, impact on participation, and treatment of breast injuries in the French feminine professional basketball league. Dr Parr and associates explored relationships between sports characteristics, disordered eating, and stress urinary incontinence in nulliparous collegiate athletes. A group led by Dr Chandran examined lifespan reproductive and pelvic floor dysfunctions in former collegiate female soccer athletes. Dr Steimling and colleagues present a case report of a multiparous runner with stress urinary incontinence who achieved a resolution of symptoms after gait retraining. A case report by Drs Piropato and Deering describes a postpartum multi-sports athlete with shoulder and thoracic pain and underscores the importance of treating the kinetic chain in light of recover from pregnancy and childbirth. The issue culminates in a Clinical Commentary in which Dr Rothchild and Ms Collingwood discuss maximizing running participation and performance through menopause with detailed information on training, nutrition, and recovery for aging female runners.

—Cynthia M. Chiarello, PT, PhD


—Shefali M. Christopher PT, DPT, PhD

Special Issue Guest Editor

Editor's Note:

The JWPHPT editorial team thanks Dr Shefali Christopher for her terrific job as guest editor for this important special topic issue, The Female Athlete: Elevating Health and Performance. We greatly appreciate her dedication and insight. It has been an honor to work with Shefali.

We have received many wonderful submissions for this issue. However, due only to space constraints, these accepted manuscripts will be published in subsequent issues.

—Cynthia M. Chiarello, PT, PhD


© 2023 Academy of Pelvic Health Physical Therapy, APTA.