Determining If Menstrual Cycle Timing May be Key for Women Athletes' Surgical Recovery
Jeannette Ickovics, Ph.D.,Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Public Health
(Collaborator: Marc Galloway, M.D.)
Laboratory studies suggest that pain threshold and immune responses vary according to the menstrual cycle. This study was designed to determine if surgical outcomes can be improved by correlating surgical procedures with the phase of the menstrual cycle. The study also was designed to examine post-surgery differences in social support and adherence to exercise regimens for men and women, both of which have been shown to influence the rate of recovery.
Highlighted Study Findings
Women are 4-5 times more likely to injure their knees severely during sports, for example by earing the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) which provides stability to the knee, thus resulting in a greater rate of these surgical repairs in women than men. This study proposed to investigate gender differences in recovery trajectories following knee surgery, based on the rate and extent of rehabilitation throughout the six months after surgery. Due to a small sample, this investigation could not pursue the question of whether surgical outcomes could be improved by correlating surgical procedures with phases of the menstrual cycle. However, the investigators were able to gather preliminary data on social support and its relationship with recovery. There was a significant interaction between gender and perceived social support on two measures of pain at 6 months post-surgery; women who had lower perceived social support reported higher pain than women with higher perceived support, whereas men reported similar levels of pain regardless of their social support. Among ACL patients, men reported slightly higher knee function at 3 weeks and 6 months, although there were no gender differences on biomechanical function, or patients’ ratings of their pain. These findings bolster the importance of social support in surgical recovery and pain management.