Where Are All the
Female Participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine Research?

JT., Bieuzen F., Bleakley CM. European Journal of Sport and Science. 2014;
Ahead of print

Take Home Message: Female
athletes are under-represented in sports and exercise medicine research. This
could have widespread implications to the clinical setting if we don’t know
whether certain risk factors or treatments affect males and females

different injuries and conditions significant differences exist between sexes
(e.g., susceptibility of concussion, risk of knee injuries, and psychological
response following injury). Research should be designed to allow us to identify
outcomes and risk factors that may differ between sexes. However, examination
of the number or percentage of male and females participating in research in
sports and exercise medicine field has not been established. Therefore, the
authors examined the sex of participants involved in research published in a
sample of top Sports and Exercise Medicine journals (i.e., British Journal of
Sports Medicine, American Journal of Sports Medicine, and Medicine and Science
in Sport and Exercise). Data were extracted from 1,382 articles from January
2011 to August 2013 involving > 6 million participants. A total of 2.37
million (39%) participants were female participants and 3.71 million (61%) were
male participants. Females were consistently under-represented across all 3
journals (35 to 37% of participants). Only 4 to 13% of the articles
incorporated females only, 18% to 34% were male only, and 53% to 78% of the
articles included a cohort of both males and females.

is an interesting article because it presents evidence of gender bias within
the current sports and exercise medicine literature, where females are
significantly under-represented. Although 53% to 78% of the articles published
in the journals included a cohort of both sexes only 39% of the participants
were female. Additionally, there were a greater amount of male only studies
(18-34%) compared to women only studies (4-13%). The authors also looked at six
systematic reviews that evaluated treatments for delayed-onset muscle soreness
and found that females only represented on average 16 to 36% of the study
populations. This suggests that women are being under represented not just in
epidemiology studies but also intervention trials. Medical professionals rely
on the current research to help determine the best care for their athlete, and
it is difficult to generalize research to males and females when the studies do
not have enough female participants. It is important to note that women make up
~43% of the high school and college athlete population. Hence if we look at this
specific population then women may not be that significantly under represented;
however, if you consider injured athletes or the general physically-active
population then women are significantly under-represented since women make up ~50%
of these populations. Due to the physiological and psychological differences
between males and females, there needs to be equal inclusion of both sexes to
truly define and generalize the findings. This is necessary to provide
individual treatment and care to athletes. Medical professionals should be
aware of this disproportion, and researchers should design their studies to
assess each sex equally. 

Questions for Discussion:
Why do you think there is such a disparity between male and female participants
in studies? How do you think researchers can improve to close this gap in the

by: Jane McDevitt, PhD
by: Jeff Driban



High Adherence to the FIFA 11+ Decreases Injury Risk Among Youth Female Soccer Players

Costello JT, Bieuzen F, & Bleakley CM (2014). Where are all the female participants in Sports and Exercise Medicine research? European Journal of Sport Science, 1-5 PMID: 24766579