Where are all the women in sports research?
Nearly half of all NCAA Division 1 athletes are women, yet sports and exercise medicine research hasn’t caught up.
- Participation: Only 34% of all participants in sports and exercises science research are female. One 2022 study found that nearly 71% of sports medicine research focuses on exclusively male participants, compared to the less than 9% that focus on females. 😡 This research disparity results in women being left in the dark about optimizing their performance, and encouraging women to apply male-techniques to their female bodies. This can result in women having higher risk of injury and performing suboptimally in sports. In addition, a lack of high quality information can make it easy for misinformation to spread and for women to understanding harmful trends as facts.
- Authorship: Not only are women underrepresented in research, we’re underrepresented in authorship, too. Women only account for a quarter of lead author positions in existing research articles, and accounted for one-fifth of editorial board positions. How can we expect women to be studied if we're not in decision making roles?
Thankfully, steps are being taken to close the gap between men and women in sports research. Lululemon recently announced their FURTHER Initiative, a collaboration with the Canadian Sports Institute Pacific where they will host an ultramarathon for women to perform research on female endurance performance. More attention is being brought to women’s sports, as University of Nebraska Volleyball recently broke the world record for highest attendance at a women’s sporting event with over 92,000 fans! We’re hoping change is coming for prioritizing and understanding female athletes in research.
by Carlyn Johnson
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Martínez-Rosales, E., Hernández-Martínez, A., Sola-Rodríguez, S., Esteban-Cornejo, I., & Soriano-Maldonado, A. (2021). Representation of women in sport sciences research, publications, and editorial leadership positions: are we moving forward?. Journal of science and medicine in sport, 24(11), 1093–1097. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2021.04.010
Costello, J. T., Bieuzen, F., & Bleakley, C. M. (2014). Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research?. European journal of sport science, 14(8), 847–851. https://doi.org/10.1080/17461391.2014.911354
Anderson, N., Robinson, D. G., Verhagen, E., Fagher, K., Edouard, P., Rojas-Valverde, D., Ahmed, O. H., Jederström, M., Usacka, L., Benoit-Piau, J., Foelix, C. G., Akinyi Okoth, C., Tsiouti, N., Moholdt, T., Pinheiro, L., Hendricks, S., Hamilton, B., Magnani, R., Badenhorst, M., & Belavy, D. L. (2023). Under-representation of women is alive and well in sport and exercise medicine: what it looks like and what we can do about it. BMJ open sport & exercise medicine, 9(2), e001606. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001606
Cowley, E. S., Olenick, A. A., McNulty, K. L., & Ross, E. Z. (2021). “Invisible Sportswomen”: The Sex Data Gap in Sport and Exercise Science Research. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 29(2), 146-151. Retrieved Oct 30, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1123/wspaj.2021-0028
Paul, R. W., Sonnier, J. H., Johnson, E. E., Hall, A. T., Osman, A., Connors, G. M., Freedman, K. B., & Bishop, M. E. (2023). Inequalities in the Evaluation of Male Versus Female Athletes in Sports Medicine Research: A Systematic Review. The American journal of sports medicine, 51(12), 3335–3342. https://doi.org/10.1177/03635465221131281