A Fascinating Piece from the New York Times Detailing the Injuries of Female Athletes
Michael Sokolove has published what will be a national conversation-starter in the New York Times magazine that will come out this weekend. In "The Uneven Playing Field," Sokolove details at tremendous length the high injury risks girls and women face in playing contact sports. I found the piece compelling, frightening, and reflective of common sense: girls are not built like guys, and thus when they play contact sports with tenacity and abandon, they will often face very serious injury.
Here's what Sokolove has found as a recurring trend in women's sport--
"This casualty rate was not due to some random spike in South Florida. It is part of a national trend in the wake of Title IX and the explosion of sports participation among girls and young women. From travel teams up through some of the signature programs in women’s college sports, women are suffering injuries that take them off the field for weeks or seasons at a time, or sometimes forever.
Girls and boys diverge in their physical abilities as they enter puberty and move through adolescence. Higher levels of testosterone allow boys to add muscle and, even without much effort on their part, get stronger. In turn, they become less flexible. Girls, as their estrogen levels increase, tend to add fat rather than muscle. They must train rigorously to get significantly stronger. The influence of estrogen makes girls’ ligaments lax, and they outperform boys in tests of overall body flexibility — a performance advantage in many sports, but also an injury risk when not accompanied by sufficient muscle to keep joints in stable, safe positions. Girls tend to run differently than boys — in a less-flexed, more-upright posture — which may put them at greater risk when changing directions and landing from jumps. Because of their wider hips, they are more likely to be knock-kneed — yet another suspected risk factor.
This divergence between the sexes occurs just at the moment when we increasingly ask more of young athletes, especially if they show talent: play longer, play harder, play faster, play for higher stakes. And we ask this of boys and girls equally — unmindful of physical differences. The pressure to concentrate on a “best” sport before even entering middle school — and to play it year-round — is bad for all kids. They wear down the same muscle groups day after day. They have no time to rejuvenate, let alone get stronger. By playing constantly, they multiply their risks and simply give themselves too many opportunities to get hurt."Here are the rates at which girls seriously (very seriously) injure themselves compared to boys--
"If girls and young women ruptured their A.C.L.’s at just twice the rate of boys and young men, it would be notable. Three times the rate would be astounding. But some researchers believe that in sports that both sexes play, and with similar rules — soccer, basketball, volleyball — female athletes rupture their A.C.L.’s at rates as high as five times that of males.
The N.C.A.A.’s Injury Surveillance System tracks injuries suffered by athletes at its member schools, calculating the frequency of certain injuries by the number of occurrences per 1,000 “athletic exposures” — practices and games. The rate for women’s soccer is 0.25 per 1,000, or 1 in 4,000, compared with 0.10 for male soccer players. The rate for women’s basketball is 0.24, more than three times the rate of 0.07 for the men. The A.C.L. injury rate for girls may be higher — perhaps much higher — than it is for college-age women because of a spike that seems to occur as girls hit puberty."
Here are the inherent genetic differences between men and women--
“Women tend to be more erect and upright when they land, and they land harder,” he said. “They bend less through the knees and hips and the rest of their bodies, and they don’t absorb the impact of the landing in the same way that males do. I don’t want to sound horrible about it, but we can make a woman athlete run and jump more like a man.”
Here are the ideals that get in the way of common sense wisdom, not to mention biblical principles--
"The bigger barrier, though, may be political. Advocates for women’s sports have had to keep a laser focus on one thing: making sure they have equal access to high-school and college sports. It’s hard to fight for equal rights while also broadcasting alarm about injuries that might suggest women are too delicate to play certain games or to play them at a high level of intensity. There are parallels in the workplace, where sex differences can easily be perceived as weakness. A woman must have maternity leave. She may ask for a quiet room to nurse her baby or pump breast milk and is the one more likely to press for on-site child care. In high-powered settings like law firms, she may be less likely, over time, to be willing to work 80 hours a week. She does not always conform to the model of the default employee: a man."
This article, as is clear, is nothing less than an earthquake in the field of gender studies. It is part of Warrior Girls: Protecting Our Daughters Against the Injury Epidemic in Women’s Sports, which will be published in June. I would encourage all readers to order the book and read it. I am guessing that, while one may not agree with every point made in it, it will offer eloquent testimony to the simple principles of common sense and biblical wisdom. Common sense tells us that, despite what our egalitarian society may tell us on many levels, men and women are intrinsically, inherently, unalterably different. This is not in any way to say that one sex is better than the other. The two sexes are equipped for different tasks, and their bodies reflect this reality, whether postmoderns--or anyone else, for that matter--accept it or not. It is readily apparent that women's bodies are not made to withstand the same physical challenges that men's bodies can tolerate.