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Supporting female performance in sport and fitness
Supporting female performance in sport and fitness

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4 Why is the female ‘problematic’ in sports science research?

The image shows a woman on a cycle ergometer with electrodes on her chest and a mask on her face. She is completing a fitness test and being shown results by a female tester.

One of the main objectives of this course is to fill in the knowledge and communication gaps by providing athletes, coaches and trainers with the knowledge they need to support the design and delivery of safe and effective programmes for female athletes. Ideally, with this added knowledge coaches and trainers will feel more confident and less embarrassed to have conversations with female athletes around subjects such as menstruation, breast support and pelvic floor health.

In Activity 4, Dr Emma Ross explains more about why females may be a ‘complication’ to researchers and the impact it can have.

Activity 4 Good excuses for not using females in research

Timing: Allow about 10 minutes

Watch the video below where Dr Emma Ross explains why researchers may leave females subjects out of their research. Then answer the following:

  • Explain why researching female athletes can make research more time consuming and expensive.
Download this video clip.Video player: boc_sfps_1_session1_activity3.mp4
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There are additional things that you need to do when effectively researching female athletes. Because the females’ hormones impact on their physiology you need to test them at different stages of their menstrual cycle. Collecting more data increases the time and cost of the study. In addition, you will need to take blood samples to measure hormone levels which again increases cost but also requires specific expertise.

While research with female subjects may have more variables, it is also incredibly important that we understand more about how these factors impact on active females. This is the only way that we can start to effectively understand female athletes and become able to support their needs properly.