Elizabeth Matzkin, MD is co-leader of Women’s Sports Medicine at Mass General Brigham. She is also a women’s sports medicine surgeon at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Brigham and Women’s Faulkner Hospital.
Dr. Matzkin is the team physician for the U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team, U.S. Paralympics Soccer Team, and the U.S. Women’s National Hockey Team. She’s also the head team physician of Stonehill College.
In this Q&A, Dr. Matzkin talks about her passion for women’s sports medicine and reflects on her work with female athletes at all levels.
Matzkin: In women’s sports medicine, we understand the risk factors specific to female athletes—which can be important in finding the best prevention or treatment plan.
For many women in athletics, physical injuries can be signs of an underlying problem. A bone stress injury or stress fracture might be a sign that a patient has an underlying nutrition and/or endocrine concern. Our job is to create a treatment plan that addresses some of the potential underlying problems in order to improve bone healing and prevent further injury or re-injury.
Our research has demonstrated sex-specific differences with regards to injury risk, injury prevention, and injury treatment. By understating these differences, we can provide specialized care for female athletes, and prevent injuries and treat them to get more women back in the game.
For example, we know that ACL injuries occur more frequently in our female athletes. We also know that our female athletes do not return to the same level of sport as often as our male athletes after ACL reconstruction surgery. Through our research, we have looked at ways to both prevent ACL injuries in females and ways to make their return to sport and risk of reinjury equivalent to male athletes.
Matzkin: As a women’s sports medicine surgeon, I do my best to understand my patients’ goals and work with them so they can take part in the activities they love. Because I am an athlete—and the mother of three athletic daughters—I can really empathize with the strong desire to get back on the field, the track, the ice, or whatever their sport may be.
Over the course of my career, I’ve studied the sex-specific factors that influence the risk of injury, treatment decisions, recovery, and return to sport in all female athletes. And those experiences have helped me connect with many patients on a deeper level.
Matzkin: As a team physician, I am responsible for the coordination of medical care and treatment of all injuries of the athletes during practice and competition. In general, the risk of injury is higher during competition, but we also see many injuries during pre-season training as well as overuse injuries throughout the season. Each sport and each athlete requires individualized care. I help coordinate care for medical and orthopedic injuries as well as for physical therapy, sports psychology, nutrition, and even injury preventative education or programs.
Learn about Mass General Brigham Sports Medicine services
Matzkin: I am lucky to work with athletes of all levels: high school, collegiate, Olympians, professionals, and everyday recreational athletes—including weekend warriors, yogis, runners, tennis/pickle ball enthusiasts, skiers, and social sports team participants. Every athlete is treated with the same goal in mind: to get them back to being active now and for the long term.
Matzkin: At Mass General Brigham, we offer comprehensive care that’s customized for every female athlete to meet their goals. Our multidisciplinary approach to sports medicine care means that we have a team of experts—including nutritionists, sports psychologists, physical therapists, endocrinologists, and more—collaborating to treat each patient according to their specific circumstances.
My colleagues and I have spent a lot of time understanding and researching sex differences in sports medicine. And we apply this work to ensure we can deliver the best possible treatment and rehabilitation plan for each patient.