Posts Tagged “Womens Sports”

Women Talk Sports recently shared an article from the Patriot News in Pennsylvania about the lack of sports icons for young girls. The article highlighted how many of us are hard-pressed to name a top female athlete outside of maybe a tennis star. It’s no surprise that women’s sports receive less attention than their male counterparts, but according to the article, the media is also fond of separating out certain players from their equally as talented teammates to make a media star. SportsForce not only supports the importance of the team mentality, but also ensuring our female sports are getting just as much exposure as our male sports, so needless to say, I was very interested in this articles topic.

For an example of this media treatment of female athletes, one must look no further than Mia Hamm of the 2000 US Women’s Soccer team. The article explains,

Hamm was the media darling from the beginning, and not by choice.

“The media wanted Mia, and that’s all they wanted,” said Jaime Pagliarulo, a Hershey native and former U.S. national team goalkeeper, who played for the Trojans in high school, and then played college soccer at George Mason University. She was in the national team player pool in 1996, and made the team again in 2001.

According to Pagliarulo, Hamm tried to share the spotlight with her teammates.

“She would say, ‘I’ll do interviews, but I’m bringing so-and-so with me’,” Pagliarulo said. “She recognized that it would take more than just her to carry the women’s soccer movement across the country.

“You’ve got a team of 24 players than the fans adore and love, but she was forced into the spotlight, and she did her part to try to distribute the press and the spotlight. That went for Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain too.”

After the Olympics, the team’s stars were separated out to different teams within the fleeting Women’s United Soccer Association, which lasted only three years before folding.

The lack of women’s sports icon does a great injustice to young female athletes. Though many may have their favorites, the media does not present them as ubiquitously as they do male athletes. Sports Force works hard to empower female athletes to take control of their future. We hope to help all of our young female athletes make it to the college level and beyond to help change the face of sports to include a few more females in the spotlight.

–article content courtesy Women Talk Sports and Patriot News

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Coach Brett Klika is the Director of Athletic Performance at Todd Durkin’s Fitness Quest 10 in San Diego, CA. He specializes in youth fitness and athletic performance, overseeing a staff of 8 strength coaches developing programs for over 300 youth per week, both athletes and non-athletes. In addition to coaching, Brett currently authors for a variety of publications, produces DVD’s on fitness and athletic performance and presents around the world on topics in fitness, wellness, and sports performance. Brett can be reached at

If you’re involved in female athletics, you may have heard of the alarming rate at which women are getting injured.  Of particular concern is the disproportionate number of knee injuries in women versus men.

Current statistics indicate that women tear their Anterior Cruciate Ligament 8 times more often than men do. This is the dreaded “ACL” injury we often hear about.  The post-injury process for this involves surgery and a slow, painful six to nine month rehab period, which can be both mentally and physically difficult for the athlete. Research has indicated that those who have an ACL injury are statistically more likely to do it again, as well as have problems with pain and limited mobility later in life.  All of the above make a strong case for creating and implementing an effective strategy for prevention.

In order to create a prevention program, however, you must find out the cause of the problem.  Aye, there’s the rub.  The theories as to why women get this injury more than men are varied and numerous, so much so that the attempt to create a prevention strategy has become diluted.  While women continue to get hurt at an alarming rate, coaches, parents, and trainers do very little in regards to specific prevention strategies.  It’s time to get our heads out of the sand, review the facts, quit clutching to cultural epithets, and stop our girls from getting hurt.  The problem with prevention is not an inability of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament; it’s our inability in Applying Credible Logic.  To prevent Dr. Andrews from Alabama, we need Dr. Spock from Vulcan (homage to pro-sports insiders and Star Trek fans.  An unlikely pairing, I know).

Here are a few prevalent theories in regards to the increased propensity in ACL injuries amongst women (trust me, there are MANY more related to female anatomy and physiology, but these are some of the more popular):

  • Women’s ACLs are smaller.
  • The connective tissue softens in relation to a female’s menstrual cycle.
  • An increased “Q” angle creates greater force at the knees.
  • Many females lack development of the VMO muscle.
  • Because of biomechanical differences in ankle, hip, and spine orientation, females tend to be quad dominant.
  • Females tend to decelerate movement in a more risk-oriented manner.
  • Females do not have the same lean muscle mass and strength as males.
  • Overtraining causes mental and physical fatigue, reducing the neuromuscular system’s ability to control the body.

While researchers can argue about which of the above contributes to an ACL injury, it is clear that all of these factors contribute.  The only speculation is to what degree each contributes to the injury.  Some can be modified, some cannot.  Females are different from males.Let’s apply some credible logic here.  If I were 5’4” and wanted to play in the NBA, I wouldn’t spend my time trying to figure out why my chances of success are slimmer.  I already know that.  Nor would I spend time hanging upside down trying to get taller.  I would address every logical thing I knew I could do to increase my likelihood for success.  It’s the same for females and ACL injuries.  A different biomechanical structure is going to create a different foundation for function.  It’s not fair, I know.  While you can’t change bones, you can change things like strength, coordination, fitness, balance, and neuromuscular movement patterns.  If these are optimal, it is possible to minimize risk.  If we could cut down the propensity of female ACL injuries to even that of two times the rate of men, that would be quite a few more girls finishing seasons and growing up to be happy, healthy, pain-free adults.

Due to our refusal to admit that women are different than men, coaches continue to train the girls like they would the boys.  Even though certain biomechanical propensities create an increased risk of injury for women, they continue to reinforce these propensities through hours and hours of practice.   Applying credible logic once again, if it has been found that the way women tend to decelerate increases likelihood for injury, wouldn’t you want to address this movement pattern from a biomechanical proficiency standpoint?  You could, maybe, practice doing it correctly and improve the various components of the movement related to stability such as strength, coordination, balance, and power.  This would suggest that a woman’s practice may have a specific component of injury prevention different from that of a manA famous study out of the Santa Monica Orthopedic and Sports Medicine Research Foundation found that with a specific protocol designed to address biomechanical and neuromuscular deficiencies in female soccer players, they were able to observe an overall injury reduction of 88%.  When you work on the things that are weak, you decrease injury.  I would say that’s pretty credible logic.

I’ve worked with thousands of young female athletes and have seen the knocked knees, “straight up” running posture, tight ankles, interiorly tilted pelvis, inability to use glute muscles, and straight legged stopping technique.   I once worked with a soccer team in which less than half the girls couldn’t do a bodyweight lunge.  Logic would dictate that a problem would arise when you throw those girls onto a field with varied playing surface, running at full speed against an unpredictable opponent.  They can’t even demonstrate appropriate mastery over their body weight in a completely inert, predictable environment!  Using logic as my guide, I created a program for our young female athletes that helps “un-knock” their knees, maintain a lower running stance, increase glute strength, and improve the movement pattern of deceleration.  In addition, by improving their general coordination, strength, and, we decrease the likelihood that they will encounter a force that is either too great a magnitude or too high in frequency for them to control.

Even with this carefully designed program, I have seen ACL injuries.  Applying it to thousands of athletes over 10 years however, I can count the number of injured girls on one hand; there have been two.  One of them had a girl land on her leg while she was on the ground; the other was playing field hockey in mud and slipped. Had the thousands of girls mentioned just gone on with no logical intervention, who knows how many of them would be hobbled on crutches on the sidelines.

As you can see, due to a variety of factors, females are at greater risk for ACL injuries than men.  We need to accept that fact and apply some “A.C.L.” to minimize these injuries. Coaches, parents, and trainers need to take the facts and work them.  Assess what has worked for others and apply it. Address the differences in male and female athletes, don’t ignore them.   Let’s make sure our female athletes can play hard, live long, and prosper!

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The SportsForce blog reported on a story like this back in February, which you can see here, and SportsForce would to share an earlier article that extolled the virtues of athletics for girls. Bringham Young University concluded a study in 2007 that stated that playing high schools sports increase the chance of a woman graduating from college by 41 percent.

Playing on a high school team increases young women’s odds of graduating from college by 41 percent, according to recent BYU grad Kelly Troutman and her mentor, sociology professor Mikaela Dufur, who report their research in the new issue of the journal Youth & Society.

“If the goal is for girls to get a higher education, our findings favor the idea of girls playing high school sports,” said Dufur, who played in the marching band but did not play on any sports teams in high school. “Not only are girls good for sports, sports are good for girls.”

Beckett Broh, a sociologist at Wittenberg University in Ohio who is not affiliated with the BYU research, concluded in a 2002 study that athletics help students’ academic performance during high school more than any other extracurricular activity. Broh said school administrators facing tight budgets should take the new BYU study into consideration before putting an athletic program on the chopping block for the sake of cutting costs.

“This is pretty powerful evidence that interscholastic sports are worthy of our education dollars,” said Broh. “This is one of the first few studies that have done a really careful look at long-term benefits of sports.”

Troutman and Dufur analyzed a sample of 5,000 female students from the high school class of 1992 who were randomly selected to participate in the National Education Longitudinal Study. Those students, both athletes and non-athletes, completed surveys in 8th grade, 10th grade and 12th grade. Six years after finishing high school, the participants completed a final survey that included questions about post-high school education.

Visit the BYU website for the full article and browse all of our Girls Sports pages at

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In 1972, Title IX, the LAW that opened college sports to women in an unprecedented way was passed. Though the act is now more than 30 years old, it still has not lost the controversy that followed it from day one. Controversy over its effectiveness, and it’s possible negative impacts on many sports, specifically men’s teams. Today, the New York Times, highlighting two studies on the effects of Title IX, is documenting that the law as well as sports in general has an amazing and ongoing impact on the lives of those females who participate in sport at the high school and college levels.

Read on for the entire article:

Almost four decades after the federal education law called Title IX opened the door for girls to participate in high school and college athletics, a crucial question has remained unanswered: Do sports make a long-term difference in a woman’s life?

A large body of research shows that sports are associated with all sorts of benefits, like lower teenage pregnancy rates, better grades and higher self-esteem. But until now, no one has determined whether those improvements are a direct result of athletic participation. It may be that the type of girl who is attracted to sports already has the social, personal and physical qualities — like ambition, strength and supportive parents — that will help her succeed in life.

Now, separate studies from two economists offer some answers, providing the strongest evidence yet that team sports can result in lifelong improvements to educational, work and health prospects. At a time when the first lady, Michelle Obama, has begun a nationwide campaign to improve schoolchildren’s health, the lessons from Title IX show that school-based fitness efforts can have lasting effects.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 required schools and colleges receiving federal money to provide the same opportunities for girls as they did for boys. Relatively few students, male or female, participate in intercollegiate sports. But the effects in high school were remarkable. Just six years after the enactment of Title IX, the percentage of girls playing team sports had jumped sixfold, to 25 percent from about 4 percent.

Most research on Title IX has looked at national trends in girls’ sports. Betsey Stevenson, an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, has taken it a step further, focusing on state-by-state variations.

“I looked to see what it means to add sports to girls’ lives,” she said. “How does it change things for them?”

States with large boys’ sports programs had to make bigger changes to achieve parity than states with smaller programs. Looking at the state-by-state statistics allowed Dr. Stevenson to narrow her focus, comparing differences in sports participation with differences in women’s educational and work achievement.

So her study untangles the effects of sports participation from other confounding factors — school size, climate, social and personal differences among athletes — and comes far closer to determining a cause and effect relationship between high school sports participation and achievement later in life.

Using a complex analysis, Dr. Stevenson showed that increasing girls’ sports participation had a direct effect on women’s education and employment. She found that the changes set in motion by Title IX explained about 20 percent of the increase in women’s education and about 40 percent of the rise in employment for 25-to-34-year-old women.

“It’s not just that the people who are going to do well in life play sports, but that sports help people do better in life,” she said, adding, “While I only show this for girls, it’s reasonable to believe it’s true for boys as well.”

Another question is whether Title IX has made a difference in women’s long-term health. In a carefully conducted study, Robert Kaestner, an economics professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, compared rates of obesity and physical activity of women who had been in high school in the 1970s — as Title IX was taking effect — with similar women from earlier years. Controlling the results for other influences, like age and changing diets, Dr. Kaestner was able to tease out the effects Title IX had on women’s health.

He found that the increase in girls’ athletic participation caused by Title IX was associated with a 7 percent lower risk of obesity 20 to 25 years later, when women were in their late 30s and early 40s. His article was published this month in the journal Evaluation Review.

Dr. Kaestner notes that while a 7 percent decline in obesity is modest, no other public health program can claim similar success. And other studies have shown that even a small drop in weight can lower risk for diabetes and other health problems.

There is still room for improvement. Today about 1 in 3 high school girls play sports, compared with about half of all boys. And participation varies widely by state, according to Dr. Stevenson’s research. Southern states like Alabama, Louisiana and Tennessee still have big gender gaps, while Northern states like Maine, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Vermont are closer to parity.

“While we have more girls than ever before, we still have far more boys playing sports than girls,” said Nicole M. LaVoi, associate director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport at the University of Minnesota. “The research clearly states that when anybody, boys and girls, are physically active, they can reap developmental and health benefits. But we haven’t reached equality yet.”

Full Article at NY Times by Tara Parker-Pope

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