A little history on Women in sport!

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Written by
Jacinda Cheong
Rehabilitation Physiotherapist

Published on
09 Nov 2017

Up until the 1980s, endurance sports, such as marathons, were explicitly for men. It wasn’t until 1984 that the Olympics included a women’s race! In fact, participation in sports, in general was limited due to gender specific health concerns and stereotypes where women were viewed to be too weak, passive or emotional for sport.

Outlandish beliefs actually governed the rules for sports such as basketball in that only the ball was allowed to bounce…this was enforced to ensure safety for women as it was believed that too much jumping may dislodge the uterus!

THANKFULLY, society and medicine have come a long way and participation rates in sports and physical activity for women is higher than ever thanks to initiatives and campaigns like Girls Make Your Move and Changing the Game … and the good news: there are yet to be any reports of a uterus falling out.

Despite medicine proving that there are no contraindications for women to participate in physical activity, there are still some gender specific issues that we should be aware of to ensure we optimise our performance and prevent injuries!

 

Physical differences

Men in general have more muscle mass (40-60% more upper body strength), longer limbs, broader shoulders, bigger hearts/lungs and more potential to build muscle mass (due to testosterone).

Women in contrast, have a greater ability to burn fat and are less prone to fatigue for endurance activities. They are also generally more flexible and mobile. This might explain why there are performance gaps between genders when it comes to different sports. However, despite these differences, women are slowly closing the gap as training magnitude related to intensity, volume and duration of exercise is a variable that knows no gender difference.

 

Boobs!

These come in all different shapes and sizes and can significantly affect physical performance due to excessive movement and ‘bounce’ if not well supported.

Unsupported breasts can cause pain in the breasts themselves as well as in the upper back and neck. Compensations in biomechanics (i.e. reduced arm swing) to reduce breast movement can also lead onto other injuries up and/or down the kinetic chain. While this is a very common issue, it is an easy fix when there are expert sports bra specialists like those at She Science. Just like when you’re looking to get a new pair of shoes, these guys will video and analyse your movements on a treadmill in different types of bras to ensure the most appropriate fit for your breasts and the type of activity you participate in.

 

The Female Athlete Triad

This is a syndrome linking low energy availability, menstrual dysfunction and low bone mineral density in women who exercise. Women affected can present with varying degrees of any of the three components depending on their eating and/or training behaviour.

The primary cause of this syndrome is low energy availability.

Basically, energy availability is energy intake (what you eat) minus the exercise energy expenditure and is the energy leftover for basic life sustaining physiological processes (cell repair, digestion etc). When this “leftover” energy falls below a certain level per day, your body will shut down certain processes such as reproduction. This can sometimes be unintentional or inadvertent due to changes in training volume and/or dieting and failing to match energy intake with expenditure.

This has significant implications on things like bone health which can lead to injuries like stress fractures.

You don’t necessarily have to be underweight or excessively training for this to affect you, so if you’re experiencing a change in your menstrual cycle, please see a doctor or sports physician.

We’re Here to Help!

If you’re taking up a new sport, returning to sport or would like advice on how to achieve your top fitness level then contact our team for a physiotherapy assessment today!

If you’re participating in this years Carman’s Women’s Fun Run in December then keep an eye out for our team in the purple and green and come say hello!