Orthopaedic surgeons are calling for increased research and education when it comes to protecting a woman’s musculoskeletal health, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS). The AAOS is holding its annual meeting March 5-9 in San Francisco.

“It is not a question of which sex is defined as normal or prototypical,” said Kim Templeton, MD, associate professor in the department of orthopaedic surgery at the University of Kansas Medical Center, in Kansas City, Kan., and chief of orthopaedic surgery at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.

“Men and women are now and always will be two different variations on a theme; therefore, it is imperative we understand those differences and have distinctly different options for preventing disease and injury for each sex,” said Dr. Templeton.

Women already have a higher rate of arthritis just because they are women, Dr. Templeton said, but add an injury to the mix and the risk of actually developing arthritis increases significantly.

One difference, Dr. Templeton noted, is that compared to men, women have a narrower heel and a wider forefoot, so wearing shoes that do not consider those variables may increase the number of foot and ankle and, potentially, knee injuries. Many companies just downsize a version of the men’s shoe, she said.

The AAOS is calling for more research, better training and prevention, along with increased education regarding women’s musculoskeletal health.