Female Sports Science newsletter – June 16, 2019

Female Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for June 16, 2019



On her terms and timeline, Ashleigh Barty climbs to top at French Open

ESPN Tennis, Bonnie D. Ford from

She just turned 23, and yet it feels as if we’ve known Ashleigh Barty forever.

Her dimpled smile and businesslike demeanor on court have been familiar sights for years now. She was a junior Wimbledon champion at 15 and a Grand Slam doubles finalist at 16. Any athlete who succeeds at such a young age earns predictable labels — prodigy, phenom — and Barty, one of the most well-liked and admired players in tennis, seemed to wear them so well that there was little reason to believe she needed a break until she took one.

The sport is full of kids who flash across our fields of vision, hit the wall and never bounce back. But Barty returned on her own timetable, first mainly to doubles, then gradually to singles, appearing rejuvenated, if one can apply the term to a then-21-year-old. Her time away included a short stint as a professional cricketer — a game at which she excelled after picking it up from scratch, and loved for its team component.

When she gravitated back to tennis, she initially thought her best chance for a major title would be in doubles, not one-on-one competition, but she craved “the ebbs and the flows, the emotions you get from winning and losing matches,” she said. “They are so unique and you can only get them when you’re playing and when you put yourself out on the line and when you become vulnerable and try and do things that no one thinks of.”


Sinclair reflects on Canada’s soccer revolution ahead of Women’s World Cup

Sportsnet.ca from

Christine Sinclair sits down with Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup to reflect on the evolution of the Canadian program during her time and the chance to make goal-scoring history in France. [video, 7:28]


108 Women’s World Cup Players on Their Jobs, Money and Sacrificing Everything

The New York Times, Allison McCann from

… To get inside that bubble, The New York Times sent a survey to every national team participating in this year’s World Cup and heard back from more than 100 players from 17 of the 24 countries competing in France.

And through a partnership with Goal Click, we gave dozens of players disposable cameras and asked them to capture their lives as they see them. Through their photographs and answers to our questions, the players took us places fans and the news media rarely go.

Here are their stories, in their own words and images.


Wisconsin Badgers’ Nicole Shanahan begins journey of a lifetime

Wisconsin State Journal, Dennis Punzel from

… “I’m just really excited about the opportunity,” said Shanahan. “I think what I’m looking forward to most is gaining a new perspective and learning more about the different cultures while playing a game I love. I can’t even explain how excited I am about it.”

When coach Kelly Sheffield was thinking about which one of his players to include on the Big Ten portion of the trip, Shanahan emerged as the natural choice. And that wasn’t because of her accomplishments on the court, as with previous UW representatives on Big Ten tours like Kelli Bates and Tionna Williams.

Rather, it was Shanahan’s intangible contributions to the program, her work ethic and enthusiasm that made her the logical candidate for the trip.



Female sex hormones and the recovery from exercise: Menstrual cycle phase affects responses. – PubMed – NCBI

Biomedical Human Kinetics journal from

Study aim:

Evidence supports female sex hormones have an influencing effect on a multitude of physiological and psychological systems related to exercise. Little is known, however, whether is effect persist into the recovery from exercise. Our objective was to examine aspects of muscle damage/inflammation process during recovery in healthy, exercise-trained women following endurance activity at the mid-follicular (MF; low sex hormone level) and mid-luteal (ML; elevated sex hormone levels) phases of their menstrual cycle.
Material and methods:

The MF and ML exercise sessions consisted of running for 90 minutes at 70% VO2max on a treadmill in a controlled laboratory environment. Menstrual cycle phase was hormonally confirmed, diet and physical activity was control throughout the study. Outcome measures were: blood creatine kinase (CK) and interleukin-6 (IL-6) assessed at immediate-post exercise (IP), 24-hour and 72-hour into recovery. Statistics involved ANOVA procedures.

At 24-hours and 72-hour into recovery CK activity was greater in MF than ML (p < 0.05) while for IL-6 at IP, 24-hour and 72-hour responses were significantly greater at MF than at ML (p < 0.05). Conclusions:

A more robust recovery CK and IL-6 response occur in the MF of the menstrual cycle when female sex hormones are reduced. This finding suggests female sex hormone changes due to menstrual cycle phase affect the physiologic responses during the extended recovery period from intensive exercise in eumenorrheic women. [full text]


Your Psychological Skills Can Predict Injury Risk

Outside Online, Alex Hutchinson from

… During the season, the 73 players suffered a total of 88 overuse injuries, not including acute injuries and illnesses. For the most part, they were pretty good at self-regulation: 28 of them score highly on planning, 36 on self-monitoring, 48 on evaluation, and 43 on reflection. But the players with moderate or low overall self-monitoring scores were 4.6 times more likely to suffer an overuse injury that required missing training or competition compared to those with high self-monitoring skills. That’s a huge difference.

There was an additional wrinkle when they broke the results down by gender. Among the 45 boys in the study, self-regulatory skills didn’t actually have a significant relationship to injury risk. Among the 38 girls, on the other hand, those with moderate or low self-regulation were a whopping 10.8 times more likely to lose time to overuse injuries. It’s worth looking a little more closely at that finding.


Women soccer players usually peak in their 20s—here’s why some excel into their 40s

Popular Science, Nicole Wetsman from

… Female athletes have certain advantages when it comes to endurance in sport, says Stacy Sims, an exercise physiologist and senior research fellow at the University of Waikato in New Zealand. Women tend to have more metabolically efficient muscles, and process more fatty acids in their muscles than men. They also have more mitochondria in their muscles, so they can produce more energy. “Men train to become more metabolically efficient. Women naturally do that,” she says. Through dedicated training, they can build the neuromuscular adaptations that maximize that ability—Sims says it takes around 15 years. If athletes enter a professional environment in their preteen years, that means they’ll likely peak in their late 20s.

Social factors also contribute to that timing, Sims says. “Women are marginalized in sport, so talent identification in kids happens later,” she says. “They have to fight so much to be identified, and tend to get into professional sports later.” Boys, on the other hand, may start that professional training younger, and therefore build to their physical peak earlier.


sports medicine

How should clinicians rehabilitate patients after ACL reconstruction? A systematic review of clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) with a focus on quality appraisal (AGREE II).

British Journal of Sports Medicine from


To summarise recommendations and appraise the quality of international clinical practice guidelines (CPGs) for rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction.

Systematic review of CPGs (PROSPERO number: CRD42017020407).

Pubmed, EMBASE, Cochrane, SPORTDiscus, PEDro and grey literature databases were searched up to 30 September 2018.

English-language CPGs on rehabilitation following ACL reconstruction that used systematic search of evidence to formulate recommendations.

We followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines to report the systematic review. Two appraisers used the Appraisal of Guidelines for Research and Evaluation (AGREE) II instrument to report comprehensiveness, consistency and quality of CPGs. We summarised recommendations for rehabilitation after ACL reconstruction.

Six CPGs with an overall median AGREE II total score of 130 points (out of 168) and median overall quality of 63% were included. One CPG had an overall score below the 50% (poor quality score) and two CPGs scored above 80% (higher quality score). The lowest domain score was ‘applicability’ (can clinicians implement this in practice?) (29%) and the highest ‘scope and purpose’ (78%) and ‘clarity of presentation’ (75%). CPGs recommended immediate knee mobilisation and strength/neuromuscular training. Early full weight-bearing exercises, early open and closed kinetic-chain exercises, cryotherapy and neuromuscular electrostimulation may be used according individual circumstances. The CPGs recommend against continuous passive motion and functional bracing.

The quality of the CPGs in ACL postoperative rehabilitation was good, but all CPGs showed poor applicability. Immediate knee mobilisation and strength/neuromuscular training should be used. Continuous passive motion and functional bracing should be eschewed.


Principles of Motor Learning to Support Neuroplasticity After ACL Injury: Implications for Optimizing Performance and Reducing Risk of Second ACL Injury

Sports Medicine journal from

Athletes who wish to resume high-level activities after an injury to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) are often advised to undergo surgical reconstruction. Nevertheless, ACL reconstruction (ACLR) does not equate to normal function of the knee or reduced risk of subsequent injuries. In fact, recent evidence has shown that only around half of post-ACLR patients can expect to return to competitive level of sports. A rising concern is the high rate of second ACL injuries, particularly in young athletes, with up to 20% of those returning to sport in the first year from surgery experiencing a second ACL rupture. Aside from the increased risk of second injury, patients after ACLR have an increased risk of developing early onset of osteoarthritis. Given the recent findings, it is imperative that rehabilitation after ACLR is scrutinized so the second injury preventative strategies can be optimized. Unfortunately, current ACLR rehabilitation programs may not be optimally effective in addressing deficits related to the initial injury and the subsequent surgical intervention. Motor learning to (re-)acquire motor skills and neuroplastic capacities are not sufficiently incorporated during traditional rehabilitation, attesting to the high re-injury rates. The purpose of this article is to present novel clinically integrated motor learning principles to support neuroplasticity that can improve patient functional performance and reduce the risk of second ACL injury. The following key concepts to enhance rehabilitation and prepare the patient for re-integration to sports after an ACL injury that is as safe as possible are presented: (1) external focus of attention, (2) implicit learning, (3) differential learning, (4) self-controlled learning and contextual interference. The novel motor learning principles presented in this manuscript may optimize future rehabilitation programs to reduce second ACL injury risk and early development of osteoarthritis by targeting changes in neural networks. [full text]


Fighting the Gender Stereotypes That Warp Biomedical Research

The New York Times, JoAnna Klein from

Say you are prescribed medication for depression, anxiety or even just to sleep. Would you want to take it if you knew that the drug had only been tested on men and male animals?

Rebecca Shansky, a neuroscientist at Northeastern University in Boston, thinks you might not. When she tells nonscientific audiences that researchers “for the most part don’t study female animals, people are blown away,” she said.

She added: “It seems like such an obvious thing to a normal person. But when you come up in the academic and science world, it’s like, ‘Oh no, females are so complicated, so we just don’t study them.’”

In 2016, the National Institutes of Health and its Canadian counterpart mandated that all preclinical research they fund must include female subjects. Now, Dr. Shansky and other scientists wonder if that requirement will do enough to improve how research is conducted.



Lyon connection could take France far at Women’s World Cup

Associated Press, Jerome Pugmire from

Lyon’s rampant form in the Champions League immediately carried over into France’s first game of the Women’s World Cup.

Friday’s 4-0 home win against South Korea saw the blue shirts of France run riot, just like many of them had done last month when Lyon crushed Barcelona 4-1 to win the Champions League for the fourth straight year and sixth in the past eight.

France’s lineup featured seven Lyon players, and how coach Reynald Pedros thoroughly enjoyed it at Parc des Princes.


USOC seeks pregnant-athlete insurance reform

ESPN, AP from

The U.S. Olympic Committee said it is working on reforms to prevent athletes from losing health insurance coverage when they become pregnant.

Three senators wrote to USOC CEO Sarah Hirshland on Wednesday, asking her to provide details about the federation’s insurance program, saying the discontinuation of coverage when an athlete becomes pregnant is “unconscionable and may put at risk her health and that of her child.”

The USOC provides funding for insurance to the national governing bodies that run individual sports, and those NGBs are responsible for determining which athletes receive coverage and under what conditions. The pool of athletes eligible for insurance is limited mainly to Olympic hopefuls and other top-line elite prospects.


Women’s Tennis Is Finally Getting Young Again

FiveThirtyEight, Tom Perrotta from

In the French Open final, 19-year-old Markéta Vondroušová, who dazzles with drop shots, will face off with Ashleigh Barty, 23, who is crafty and quick with a ton of energy. Amanda Anisimova, 17, reached the semis by hitting smooth strokes and bullets all day long. And world No. 1 Naomi Osaka lost early in Paris but claimed two Grand Slam titles by the age of 21.

Women’s tennis is, at long last, getting young.

The average age of players who have won at least one WTA title this year is 23.6 years old. That’s the lowest age since 2008 — and it will drop even further after Saturday. At the French Open this year, the final eight women in the event were no older than 28.


AI predicts USA are favourites to win the 2019 Women’s World Cup

New Scientist, Technology, Sam Wong from

The FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off today in France, with 24 teams competing for football’s biggest prize. While there have been many attempts to use statistical models to predict results in men’s football, the women’s game has received less attention from statisticians so far. One team, led by Andreas Groll at TU Dortmund University in Germany, has used machine learning to create a probabilistic forecast for the tournament.


Women’s hockey has avid fans but needs a corporate cash infusion

The Conversation, Katie Lebel from

… In the Canadian Women’s Hockey League (CWHL) this past season, the Toronto Furies won their final five games in a row to clinch a playoff berth. In a classic win-or-go-home matchup against their crosstown rival, the Markham Thunder, the game-winning goal was scored by the Furies’ top draft pick, Canadian Olympian Sarah Nurse, in a storybook finish.

How was this different from Leonard’s immortalizing shot?

Only the 500 people physically in attendance at the game had the pleasure of witnessing it. The event was not covered by any legacy media, there were no cameras to capture the moment nor any audio commentary to preserve the excitement of the play. Like trees in a forest, even the most extraordinary sport achievements fall silent if there are no tools in place to showcase them.



FIFA caps first women’s conference with UN Women partnership

Associated Press, Anne M. Peterson from

FIFA capped its first Women’s Convention by announcing a partnership with UN Women to promote gender equity around the globe.

“Of course FIFA is an organization which has a mission to develop football all over the world, but we also know that FIFA has a social role as well,” FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Friday at the conclusion of the two-day conference.

Infantino was joined by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of UN Women, who noted: “Sports gives us multidimensional possibilities to advance gender equality.”


The Brazil women’s national soccer team’s fiercest opponent is sexism

SB Nation, Brenda Elsey from

Brazil’s women have struggled to achieve at the world level like the men. The reason is complex, but it starts with sexism.


How Argentina’s women took on blatant sexism to reach the World Cup

The Guardian, Joshua Nadel and Brenda Elsey from

The team were so underfunded they did not play at all between 2015 and 2017 but next take on England in France on Friday


Why Women, but Not Men, Are Judged for a Messy House

The New York Times, The Upshot blog, Claire Cain Miller from

They’re still held to a higher social standard, which explains why they’re doing so much housework, studies show.


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