Sports Medicine Division Female Athlete Program

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Female Athlete Program The number of girls and young women in competitive sports continues to increase at an exciting rate, and Boston Children’s Hospital’s Division of Sports Medicine’s Female Athlete Program works to keep female athletes healthy and at the top of their game.

Our Female Athlete Program, comprised of leaders in sports medicine, cares for athletes of all ages—from elite professionals to eager novices—and stands out in the nation for its specialized care and research in areas such as the Female Athlete Triad treatment, knee and ACL injuries, stress fractures, bone health and nutrition.  

Our clinical team of sports medicine experts focuses on the holistic and complex needs of female athletes, carefully assessing hormonal balance and exercise habits of each young woman.

Our experts have conducted landmark research on knee pain and anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries, which are five to eight times more prevalent in girls.

Overcoming an ACL injury - Olympic slopestyle skier Julia Marino

We specialize in the interrelationship of menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability and decreased bone mineral density, often referred to as the Female Athlete Triad. Our clinical team helps female athletes to increase their energy availability, resume a regular menstrual cycle and regain healthy bone density.

Our clinical team also specializes in:

  • bone health
  • nutrition
  • concussions
  • adolescent health
  • menstrual cycle
  • pregnancy and exercise safety
  • metabolic assessment for athletic performance

Can sports make kids smarter?

Was Thomas Jefferson on to something when he quipped, “A strong body makes the mind strong?” It appears so, according to a study of nearly 5,000 British teens. Researchers tracked physical activity and standardized test performance at ages 11, 13 and 16. Overall, kids who were more active achieved higher test scores in English, math and science. Read more.

Our Leadership

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Kathryn (Kate) Ackerman, MD, MPH, and Martha Murray, MD, co-direct the Boston Children's Hospital Division of Sports Medicine Female Athlete Program.
 Dr. Kathryn Ackerman
 Dr. Martha Murray
Ackerman sees athletes of all ages with musculoskeletal issues, general medical issues and especially endocrine problems, such as female athlete triad and diabetes. Her research involves the study of female athletes and various treatments and links to female athlete triad. She is an instructor in medicine at Harvard Medical School, a former national team rower and a current team physician for the U.S. National Rowing Team and Community Rowing, Inc.  She is also an affiliated team physician for various high schools and colleges in Boston, The Boston Ballet and the Boston Marathon Ackerman is a graduate of Cornell University, John Hopkins School of Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health. She completed a residency in internal medicine at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; a sports medicine fellowship at Boston Children's Hospital; an endocrinology, diabetes and metabolism fellowship at Brigham and Women's Hospital and a neuroendocrine research fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital.  Murray specializes in the care of knee injuries in athletes, and her research focuses on the stimulation of healing of tissues inside joints, particularly the ACL and meniscus of the knee. Her work has been funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the National Football League. She is an associate professor in orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School, a member of the Executive Committee of the international ACL study group and author of more than 60 publications regarding research on knee injuries. Murray received her undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Delaware, her master's degree in materials science and engineering from Stanford University and her medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania. She completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at Harvard Medical School and fellowships in pediatric orthopedics and sports medicine at Boston Children's Hospital.

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Health guides

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To help young women athletes stay at the top of their game, our world-renowned sports medicine experts have created a suite of educational materials that helps female athletes stay as healthy as possible while competing.

We will add more helpful materials in the coming months, so please stay connected to us to learn more about strategies for optimizing health and performance.

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In the news

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Gender gap in treating female athletes:
Boston Globe – June 3, 2013
New centers, including at Boston Children's, seek to understand sports injuries that more commonly plague female athletes

Boston Children's Hospital Female Athlete Program gives injured teens custom care
CBS Boston  – May 30, 2013

Beating the odds: After three knee injuries, a female athlete triumphs
Boston Children's Hospital Thriving – Apr 3, 2013

Knees, Food, Periods: Top 10 Medical Tips If Your Daughter Plays Sports
WBUR’s CommonHealth blog – Apr 5, 2013

Treating And Preventing Injuries In Female Athletes
WBUR’s Radio Boston – Apr 9, 2013

Boston Children's Hospital creates program tailored to female athletes
The BU Daily Free Press – Apr 9, 2013

Program focuses on injuries unique to female athletes
Lynn Daily Item – Apr 15, 2013 

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Research

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Experts in the Female Athlete Program and the Sports Medicine Division are dedicated to research and innovation for athletes of all ages. The team has participated in the following research:

  1. Estradiol level predict bone mineral density in male collegiate athletes: a pilot study. Ackerman KE, Skrinar GS, Medvedova E, Misra M, Miller KK. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 2012 Mar;76(3):339-45.
  2. Higher ghrelin and lower leptin secretion is associated with lower LH secretion in young amenorrheic athletes compated with eumenorrheic athletes and controls. Ackerman KE, Slusarz K, Guereca G, Pierce L, Slattery M, Mendes Estalla N, Herzog DB, Misra M.  Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. 2012 Jan 17. [Epub ahead of print]
  3. DXA surrogates for visceral fat are inversely associated with bone density measures in adolescent athletes with menstrual dysfunction. Ackerman KE, Davis B, Jacoby L, Misra M. J Pediatr Endocrinol Metab. 2011;24(7-8):497-504. 
  4. Bone microarchitecture is impaired in adolescent amenorrheic athletes compared with eumenorrheic athletes and nonathletic controls. Ackerman KE, Nazem T, Chapko D, Russell M, Mendes N, Taylor AP, Bouxsein ML, Misra M.  J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2011 Oct;96(10):3123-33. 
  5. Bone health and the female athlete triad in adolescent athletes. Ackerman KE, Misra M.  Phys Sportsmed. 2011 Feb;39(1):131-41. 
  6. Exercise, sports participation and musculoskeletal disorders of pregnancy and postpartum. Borg-Stein JP, Fogelman DJ, Ackerman KE.  Semin Neurol. 2011 Sep;31(4):413-22.
  7. The use of magnetic resonance imaging to predict ACL graft structural properties. Fleming BC, Vajapeyam S, Connolly SA, Magarian EM, Murray MM.  J Biomech. 2011 Nov 10;44(16):2843-6.
  8. Effect of anterior cruciate healing on the uninjured ligament insertion site. Haus BM, Mastrangelo AN, Murray MM.  J Orthop Res. 2012 Jan;30(1):86-94.  
  9. A comparative anatomical study of the human knee and six animal species. Proffen BL, McElfresh M, Fleming BC, Murray MM.  Knee. 2011 Aug 16.  
  10. Biomechanical outcomes after bioenhanced anterior cruciate ligament repair and anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction are equal in a porcine model. Vavken P, Fleming BC, Mastrangelo AN, Machan JT, Murray MM.  Arthroscopy. 2012 Jan 19. 
  11. The effect of platelet concentrates on graft maturation and graft-bone interface healing in anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction in human patients: a systematic review of controlled trials. Vavken P, Sadoghi P, Murray MM.  Arthroscopy. 2011 Nov;27(11):1573-83. 
  12. Treating anterior cruciate ligament tears in skeletally immature patients. Vavken P, Murray MM.  Arthroscopy. 2011 May;27(5):704-16.

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Female Athlete Conference | The ACL: Treatment and Injury Prevention in Females

Female Athlete Conference | Horomone Cycles and Performance

Ellen Geminiani, MD - Sports Medicine Division

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