Gender Data Gap in Sport Science

Autor:

Billy Sperlich

Evidenzpyramide:

Gender Data Gap in Sport Science

“Females remain significantly underrepresented within sport and exercise science research” [1]

The world of sports science has long been influenced by a significant, yet often overlooked, issue: the gender data gap [2]. This gap, characterized by the underrepresentation („No data”) or misrepresentation (“bad data”) of women in sports science research, has far-reaching implications. It affects our understanding of female athletes‘ physiology, training needs, injury risk, and overall performance. Addressing this gap is not just a matter of equity; it’s essential for the advancement of sports science as a whole.

Traditionally, sports science research has been heavily skewed towards male athletes. This bias stems from various factors, including historical norms, the misperception that male athletes are the standard, and logistical challenges such as accounting for hormonal fluctuations in women. The result is a body of knowledge that may not accurately represent half of the athletic population. In fact, at the current publication rate it will take 10-20 years to have an equal amount of female and male participants in sport science studies.

Differences in the amount of publication studying male and female particiapants in endurance sports.

 

Biological Differences

Women and men exhibit significant physiological differences, from hormonal cycles to muscle composition and cardiovascular response [3]. Ignoring these differences can lead to suboptimal training and recovery protocols for female athletes.

Injury Risk and Management

Women have different injury risks (e.g., higher incidence of ACL injuries) compared to men [4, 5]. A lack of gender-specific research means prevention and rehabilitation strategies might not be as effective for women.

Nutritional Needs

Nutrition plays a critical role in an athlete’s performance and recovery [6]. However, most nutritional guidelines in sports are derived from studies on male athletes, potentially overlooking the unique needs of female athletes.

Equipment and Clothing Design
Sports equipment and apparel are often designed based on data from male athletes, leading to issues with fit, comfort, and performance for female athletes.

 

How to fix the gap!?

To address gender data disparities, it’s essential to:

  1. Increase Representation in Research: Actively include female athletes in sports science research to gather comprehensive data.
  2. Focus on Female-Specific Studies: Conduct studies that specifically investigate the physiological, biomechanical, and psychological aspects of female athletic performance.
  3. Reevaluate Existing Practices: Critically assess current training, nutrition, and injury management practices with a gender-inclusive lens.
  4. Educate and Raise Awareness: Increase awareness about the gender data gap among coaches, trainers, and the broader sports community.

 

The gender data gap in sports science is not just a theoretical concern; it has real-world implications for the health and performance of female athletes. By prioritizing gender-inclusive research and reevaluating existing practices, the sports science community can ensure that both male and female athletes have the opportunity to perform at their best, backed by science that sees and values them equally.

 

  1. Cowley, E.S., et al., “Invisible sportswomen”: the sex data gap in sport and exercise science research. Women in Sport and Physical Activity Journal, 2021. 29(2)
  2. Navalta, J.W., D.W. Davis, and W.J. Stone, Implications for cisgender female underrepresentation, small sample sizes, and misgendering in sport and exercise science research. PLoS One, 2023. 18(11): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/38032870
  3. Besson, T., et al., Sex Differences in Endurance Running. Sports Med, 2022. 52(6): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/35122632
  4. Ristolainen, L., et al., Gender differences in sport injury risk and types of inju-ries: a retrospective twelve-month study on cross-country skiers, swimmers, long-distance runners and soccer players. J Sports Sci Med, 2009. 8(3): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24150009
  5. Lin, C.Y., et al., Sex Differences in Common Sports Injuries. PM R, 2018. 10(10): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29550413
  6. Wohlgemuth, K.J., et al., Sex differences and considerations for female specific nutritional strategies: a narrative review. J Int Soc Sports Nutr, 2021. 18(1): http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/33794937