Women are too hard to research in sports studies

Women-Sport-SoccerThis is the sort of lazy science that pisses me off. According to a British Journal of Sports Medicine report, women are frequently left out of exercise research because they are too “physiologically variable”.

The net result is much of the sports science research we read is skewed with any physiological effects of diet or exercise related to male physiology and endocrinology and the effects on women, who’s endocrine systems are significantly different to their male counterparts, largely left to extrapolation or estimation.

The Evolution of Womens Sports-Design 2Frankly, this is appalling. When I went to school, we learned about the differences between males and females. Even by early high school – and schools today get into this stuff earlier than we did back in my day! – we had been taught that women’s bodies go through a regular cycle of change.

For scientists today to put women in the too hard basket is more a sign of their ingrained male-bias than  a lack of knowledge or capacity to carry out the scientific method on just over half the human population.

The problem, of course, goes well beyond scientific research. As the infographic (from Ohio University) alongside this shows, while women represent 40% of the competitors, they only get 4% of the coverage enjoyed by men.

The study looked at 1382 sport and exercise research studies conducted between 2011 and 2013, involving more than six million participants. Women constituted just 39% of the subjects.

I’m going to add another criterion to those I mentioned yesterday for evaluating scientific studies. Check the gender bias of the research. If all of the athletes surveyed were men, then it’s possible the outcomes of the study may not be completely applicable to women.

Perhaps this is what happens in male-dominated labs.

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