May 10, 2019 09:01 AM EDT
Scientists from Brown University in Rhode Island have found a new use for birth control, other than to avoid pregnancy. Their findings conclude that oral contraceptives are linked to lower risk of serious knee injuries for teenagers.
According to Dr. Steven DeFroda, young athletes use oral contraceptives for a variety of reasons including menstrual cycle regulation and stopping pregnancy. Dr. DeFroda, the lead researcher for the new research, stated that with careful assessment of the risks, injury risk reduction could be another benefit of the pill for female athletes.
In their study, the group observed and analyzed more than 165,000 female subjects with ages that range from 15 to 49 years, and that reside in the United States. The valid subject should have a database showing insurance and prescription information for the past 10 years. Their study has revealed that teenagers on birth control rated 63% less likely to need reconstructive surgery after an anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear as compared to those that are not taking oral contraceptives.
In general, women taking birth control pills orally were said to rate at 18% less likely to need reconstructive surgery compared to women that are not taking the contraceptive prescription.
The doctor pointed out the importance of the study as half of the athletes that experience ACL tears were not able to return to competitive sports. Some incidents of the said injury could even lead to accounts of arthritis in the future.
Dr. DeFroda further explained that it is likely that oral contraceptives could help maintain or lower the levels of estrogen and progesterone.
The researchers later concluded that doctors should start considering to prescribe birth-control to the elite high school and college athletes. Players participating in sports such as soccer and basketball are at higher risk of ACL tears. These are the players that could use a prescription of birth control for the purpose of avoiding injury.
However, some experts say that high school is an early age to be recommended the pill.
Jim Thornton, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Nottingham stated that there might be other explanations for the higher rates of ACL tear surgery in women that are not on the pill. This includes the fact that women who exercise extensively may experience a halt and their menstruation and as a result, would not take the pill on those grounds. They are then at a higher risk of injury because of their frequent physical activities.
The Sports Institute at the University of Washington School of Medicine pointed out that past research has link birth control to the risk of ACL tears. However, the said past research has critical shortcomings and does not prove that the pills are providing any sort of athletic protection.
To this, the researchers pointed out that the new study is only observational. This means that no firm conclusion can be drawn about cause and effect.
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