Female Sports Science newsletter – August 19, 2018

Female Sports Science news articles, blog posts and research papers for August 19, 2018



Unapologetically Liz – Once dragged down by doubt and depression, Liz Cambage is now setting records, leading the WNBA in scoring and dancing like no one’s watching.

Bleacher Report, Mirin Fader from

… As she speaks, she stretches her legs, her Gucci slides peeking out from underneath the table. “When I’m down and out, some days I really don’t understand why I was given this vessel, this body, that is so different and has been treated so differently my whole life,” she says.

Cambage has been bullied since she was a young girl. Nowadays, she is accosted at least three times a day by strangers asking how tall she is. She says the heads of the WNBA, the WNBL (Australia) and FIBA have told her privately that they don’t know how to referee someone of her size.

“If they can’t get it together now, how is the game meant to progress and evolve?” Cambage says. “I’m evolution right now.”


“I don’t miss being an athlete”, says JESSICA ENNIS-HILL

Daily and Sunday Express (UK), Elizabeth Archer from

… “I have so much respect for the likes of Laura Kenny, Serena Williams and all these other athletes who are mums.

“It’s more acceptable to get back into sport after having kids now. You don’t have to go through your career and then stop to have children.”

Yet Jess would like to see more support for women who exercise during and after pregnancy.


American Gail Brodsky trying to put herself back on the tennis map

ESPN Tennis, Peter Bodo from

Gail Brodsky sat on the sofa in her Kirkland, Washington, home to watch the 2017 US Open final between Sloane Stephens and Madison Keys. She was, in her own words, “out of shape, kind of being a mom and tennis coach, with no other thoughts” when she had another thought.

“I had this overwhelming sense that I wanted to experience that feeling of being out there again,” Brodsky, a 27-year-old mother of two, told ESPN.com this week. “I wanted to experience it all over now that I’ve learned to love the game. If I looked back 10 years from now, there would be no questions. I’d know I gave tennis my best shot.”


Kara Goucher Shares the Secret to Finally Finding Her Confidence

Runner's World, Kara Goucher from

… About a year earlier, my sport psychologist, Dr. Stephen Walker, suggested that I start a confidence journal. I was preparing for the 2016 Olympic Trials after having represented the United States in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. I certainly wasn’t new to competitive running, and yet, I was realizing anew the importance of being physically and mentally prepared.

Running is a head game. When you’re running, there are two options: let your mind wander or focus. To compete, you must focus. Every step, breath, and muscle movement matters for 26.2 miles. When your body is being pushed to the max, it’s easy to let your mind go to a dark place, and tell you all kinds of things: “Everyone here is better than me. I’m not ready for this. My knee hurts. Something is off.”


Katie Ledecky Crosses Into the World of Pro Sports. It Feels Like Home.

The New York Times, Karen Crouse from

Ledecky will keep training at Stanford even though she is no longer eligible for college swimming, and she plans to work in the university’s Mind and Body Lab as she seeks a psychology degree.


A’ja Wilson, W.N.B.A.’s Top Rookie, Finds Her Voice and Her Way

The New York Times, Pat Borzi from

Eva Rakes Wilson, the mother of the W.N.B.A. star A’ja Wilson, maintains a Twitter account but doesn’t monitor it closely. So when her daughter’s tweets about LeBron James and W.N.B.A. salaries went viral about a month ago, she wasn’t aware until a friend alerted her to the furor.

And what a furor it was. When James agreed to his four-year, $154 million free-agent deal with the Los Angeles Lakers, A’ja Wilson — a rookie Las Vegas Aces power forward and the most dominant player to enter the league in a decade — advocated greater pay for W.N.B.A. players in a series of tweets.

Wilson wasn’t asking for equal pay — just an equal percentage of league revenue earmarked for salaries. Players receive 50 percent of revenue in the N.B.A., but less than 25 percent in the W.N.B.A., according to Forbes magazine. But her tweet brought other numbers into play, too: For example, the W.N.B.A. veteran maximum of $115,500 is far less than the N.B.A. minimum of $560,000, and W.N.B.A. rookies can earn as little as $41,200 a season.



Differences in elbow extensor muscle characteristics between resistance-trained men and women. – PubMed – NCBI

European Journal of Applied Physiology from


Muscular strength is suggested to be dependent upon muscle characteristics. Yet, sex-specific relationships of muscle characteristics to strength in the resistance-trained require investigation. Therefore, the purpose was to evaluate sex differences in muscle characteristics and isometric strength in the elbow extensors, as well as their respective associations.

Resistance-trained men (n = 15, mean ± SD 22 ± 4 years, 87.5 ± 12.8 kg, 16.9 ± 2.9% body fat) and women (n = 15, mean ± SD 25 ± 5 years, 59.3 ± 7.3 kg, 22.4 ± 4.2% body fat) were tested. B-mode ultrasound images assessed muscle thickness, pennation angle, and echo intensity. Muscle volume and fascicle length were estimated from previously validated equations. Maximal voluntary isometric contraction measured elbow extensors isometric strength. Independent samples t-tests and Fisher’s r-to-z test examined differences between sexes.

Sex differences existed in all muscle characteristics (p < 0.05). Men's absolute strength (27.86 ± 3.55 kg) was significantly greater than women (16.15 ± 3.15 kg), but no differences were noted when controlling for muscle volume (men 0.069 ± 0.017, women 0.077 ± 0.022 kg/cm3). Sex differences did not exist in the relationships of muscle characteristics to strength with muscle size having the largest correlations. However, the relationship between echo intensity and body fat was different in men (r = - 0.311) and women (r = 0.541, p = 0.0143). CONCLUSIONS:

Sex differences in isometric elbow extensor strength are eliminated when expressed relative to muscle volume. Relationships of echo intensity and body fat were different between men and women and may be indicative of greater adipose infiltration in women.


Intensity and Load Characteristics of Professional Road Cycling: Differences between Men’s and Women’s Races

International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance from


This study provides a retrospective analysis of a large competition database describing the intensity and load demands of professional road cycling races, highlighting the differences between men’s and women’s races.

Twenty male and ten female professional cyclists participated in this study. During 4 consecutive years, heart rate (HR), rating of perceived exertion (RPE) and power output (PO) data were collected during both male (n = 3024) and female (n = 667) professional races. Intensity distribution in five HR zones was quantified. Competition load was calculated using different metrics including Training Stress Score (TSS), Training Impulse (TRIMP) and session-RPE (sRPE). Standardized effect size is reported as Cohen’s d.

Large to very large higher values (d = 1.36 – 2.86) were observed for distance, duration, total work (kJ) and mean PO in men’s races. Time spent in high intensity HR zones (i.e. zone 4 and zone 5) was largely higher in women’s races (d = 1.38 – 1.55) compared to men’s races. Small higher loads were observed in men’s races quantified using TSS (d = 0.53) and TRIMP (d = 0.23). However, load metrics expressed per km were large to very largely higher in women’s races for TSS∙km-1 (d = 1.50) and TRIMP∙km-1 (d = 2.31).

Volume and absolute load are higher in men’s races whilst intensity and time spent at high intensity zones is higher in women’s races. Coaches and practitioners should consider these differences in demands in the preparation of professional road cyclists.


Repeated high-speed running in elite female soccer players during international competition

Science and Medicine in Football journal from

Objectives: To provide a detailed analysis of the repeated high-speed demands of competitive international female soccer match play. Methods: A total of 148 individual match observations were undertaken on 107 outfield players in competitive international matches, using a computerised tracking system (STATS, Leeds, England). High-speed activity was classified as either sprint activity (SA) (>25.1 km h-1) or high-speed running (HSR) (>19.8 km h-1). Repeated sprint activity (RSA) was defined as a minimum of two sprints with < 20 s recovery between sprints and repeated high-speed activity (RHSA) was defined as a minimum of two high-speed runs or sprints with < 20 s recovery between efforts. Results: HSR bouts occurred ~5 times more frequently than SA bouts. Central defenders (CD) completed ~50–80 fewer HSR bouts (moderate count ratio (CR): range 0.61–0.70) and ~10–20 fewer SA bouts (moderate CR: range 0.53–0.69) than all other playing positions. RSA bouts occurred less frequently than RHSA bouts (33 ± 10 vs. 1.1 ± 1.1). Conclusion: Consideration of both RHSA and RSA bouts is necessary to ensure a comprehensive understanding of the demands of female match play. Practitioners can utilise this information to construct position-specific training and testing programmes.


The secret formula for becoming an elite athlete

The Conversation, Nicole W. Forrester from

… I was almost 18 when a track and field coach saw me and my tall, lean physique working at McDonald’s and gave me the phone number of a high jump coach at the University of Toronto. That fateful day led me to become a member of 20 national teams, an eight-time Canadian champion, an Olympian and a multi-medalist on various major Games, spanning a career more than 15 years.

I attribute my quick progression in the high jump to the various sports I played growing up. Had I started specializing in my sport at an earlier age, I doubt I would have lasted for as long as I did or had the same level of success.

The path to becoming an Olympian requires a mixture of important ingredients that may vary according to the sport and the individual athlete. Ultimately, for many, the path is navigated through deliberate play and involvement in various sports, developed through a commitment of deliberate practice, and reinforced by support, resources, motivation and effort.

Most importantly, in sports where peak performance occurs after maturation, early sport specialization is not the answer to becoming a super elite athlete.



Why Women (and Everyone Else) Should Code

Medium, Anna R. Karlin from

  • I want to point out some of the highly dynamic factors influencing the enrollment of women in computer science (CS) that are not addressed by Reges’ article and make the case that significantly different conclusions are also possible.
  • I want to strongly encourage undergraduates at UW and elsewhere to take CS courses. I especially want to make sure that UW students know that all of our instructors, including Reges, care deeply about recruiting all talented and passionate students into CS, regardless of who or what they are, and are 100% behind the agenda of “encouragement and removal of artificial barriers” (a quote from Reges’ article).
  • I want to reach out to other computer science educators to say that we need to actively encourage all students to learn CS and programming. If we want the very best students to be entering our field, we need to compete for them (both women and men). It is not easy to identify the most talented and passionate students.

    Coding Bootcamps: Women Overcoming Intimidation

    Medium, Bits and Behavior, Kyle Thayer from

    … it appears that coding bootcamps can provide an opportunity for women who suffer from a confidence gap and therefore feel intimidated by “math”, “know-it-alls”, and predominately male environments. This confidence gap matches other studies showing that women tend to feel less confident about math and science, even though they are just as capable as men. The women in Sherry’s study who attended coding bootcamps overcame their intimidation, and even learned that some of that intimidation was based on faulty knowledge. In particular they found that their expectations on the the difficulty of coding and the necessity of math did not line up with reality.


    Make Your Daughter Practice Math. She’ll Thank You Later.

    The New York Times, Opinion, Barbara Oakley from

    The way we teach math in America hurts all students, but it may be hurting girls the most.


    sports medicine

    Poor static balance is a risk factor for non-contact anterior cruciate ligament injury

    Archives of Orthopaedic and Trauma Surgery journal from


    This prospective study aimed to investigate the relationship between static balance and the incidence of non-contact anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injury in female high school athletes.

    This study included 276 female high school handball or basketball players. At the time of admission, each subject’s static balance was measured with a gravicorder, and the incidence of non-contact ACL injury was investigated in the 3 years until the student graduated. The measured parameters of postural sway were locus length per time (the distance that a center of gravity of the foot pressure moves per second) and environmental area (AR: the area surrounded by the integumentary covering of the trace of the center of gravity). Twenty-seven players (9.8%) experienced an ACL injury during the 3-year observation period. Twenty-four injured players sustained a non-contact injury and three injured players sustained a contact injury. In this study, the three contact injury players were excluded. We compared the differences in the static balance between injured and uninjured players.

    The locus length per time was significantly longer in injured than in uninjured players (p = 0.046). Though there was no statistically significant difference between the two groups in AR (p = 0.190), AR tended to be larger in the ACL injured group.

    This result shows that poor static balance is a risk factor for non-contact ACL injury.


    Why are girls still getting more concussions than boys in some sports?

    MLive.com, Hugh Bernreuter from

    … Girls soccer concussions are part of a larger trend that has become apparent after three years of concussion studies by the Michigan High School Athletic Association.

    The association released its concussion survey numbers from the 2017-18 school year, with some expected numbers (football and hockey have the most concussions per participants) and some unexpected (female concussions numbers are notably higher than their male counterparts in some sports).


    Gender bias is all too real – and dangerous – in the doctor’s office

    Massive Science, Gina Mantica from

    Groggy from sedatives, Susannah Cahalan is unable to make out her surroundings. She doesn’t know what’s going on, but she can’t move her arms or her legs. When she realizes her wrists and ankles are bound to the hospital bed, she throws herself against the restraints in an attempt to escape, screaming until a nurse rushes in to sedate her again. Netflix’s new original film, Brain on Fire, fictionally depicts the true story of the journalist Susannah Cahalan’s body being taken over by a rare disease, anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis.

    The terrifying condition is an autoimmune disorder of the brain, meaning her immune system began making antibodies – a protein that normally attacks foreign pathogens, like tumors or infections – that instead mistakenly attacked the NMDA receptor in her brain. NMDA receptors are important for memory, and are known to play a role in neurological and neuro-psychiatric disorders, including epilepsy. The condition can cause inflammation in the brain, and neurological symptoms like seizures and hyperkinesia. But doctors initially missed the diagnosis, instead erroneously treating her for a variety of psychological disorders.

    Cahalan’s case is not unique – cases of this kind of misdiagnosis are abundant. It’s estimated that 90 percent of people suffering from autoimmune encephalitis go undiagnosed. In part, that may be because the disease, which predominately afflicts women, first presents symptoms that can also be characteristic of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and neuroleptic malignant syndrome (an adverse reaction to psychoactive drugs that target dopamine in the brain).


    Volleyball Concussions: “It’s scary. It’s a hard injury to deal with.”

    VolleyballMag.com, Lee Feinswog from

    … When we asked longtime Arizona women’s coach Dave Rubio if he’d ever dealt with concussions, he said simply, “We all have.”

    Asked Creighton coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth, “You think it’s because it’s becoming an epidemic or the game is becoming more dangerous? I don’t know the answer to that question.”

    We don’t either. But in this series we offer stories that tell you what the protocols are for various organizations, the science of concussions, and, from a USA Volleyball team doctor, ideas for prevention. This is the first of 12 stories that will be posted at VolleyballMag.com this week.

    We are also trying to do our part, partnering with the Texas Advantage Volleyball (TAV) club and director John Sample, who is offering FDA-approved baseline testing by the company ImPACT for just $5.



    As Anriel Howard Shows, Underpayment Of Elite Women’s Basketball Players Only Begins In College

    Forbes, David Berri from

    … Howard leaves Texas A&M as the school’s all-time leading rebounder. If we consider all the box-score statistics, we see that of all the players returning in the Southeastern Conference, only Teaira McCowan — Howard’s new teammate with the Bulldogs — produced more wins in 2017-18. So Howard’s addition clearly should help the Bulldogs on the court.

    Howard, though, does more than just produce wins on the court. As detailed in my textbook Sports Economics — and the blog that accompanies the book — we can do more than just measure how many wins Howard produces. We can also see how much revenue those wins are worth. This analysis indicates that last season Howard led Texas A&M with 6.6 wins produced and that these wins were worth $126,931 in revenue. The cost of attending Texas A&M for out-of-state students is estimated to be $54,332. That means Howard was definitely underpaid by the Aggies.

    In other words, like many women in college basketball, Howard was exploited by Texas A&M.


    China is trying to manufacture a women’s hockey dynasty, but is that possible?

    SB Nation, Saqib Rahim from

    … Since 2014, the Chinese government has undertaken a systemic sports reform, one that’s every bit as economic as it is cultural. China’s goal is nothing less than building the largest sports market in the world — $813 billion by 2025. They also want to do it faster than what would usually be considered possible, at least to those in market economies. According to Nikki Wang, head of sports business in China for Deloitte, getting to $813 billion would imply more than 16 percent growth from 2013 to 2020 before coasting to 10 percent in the home stretch.

    After decades of pulling the global economy ahead, experts say China is looking for new, domestic markets to satiate its middle class. But it’s not all about money. As the State Council said in a 2014 guidance document, China sees it as an “inevitable” part of its development to match what western nations have done: weave sports into everyday life and make their people healthier and more nationalistic. China envisions half a billion people, many of whom have more time and money than their forebears did, will become athletes — or at least athletic.

    “Accelerate the construction of a powerful sports nation,” reads one translation. “Continuously meet the people’s growing sports demands.”

    Becoming a powerful sports nation demands excellence in international team sports. The initial priorities were basketball, soccer, and volleyball, but winter sports were added to the fold once Beijing was picked to host the Winter Olympics. China’s official goal is to get 300 million citizens — just under a quarter of the population — participating in winter sports by 2022. Inevitably, hockey became a target.


    The number of purposeful headers female youth soccer players experience during games depends on player age but not player position

    Science and Medicine in Football journal from

    Purpose: The aim of this study was to describe the frequency and characteristics of purposeful soccer heading in youth players based on age, position, and head impact location.

    Methods: Game video was recorded for three female youth teams [under-13 (U13), under-14 (U14), and under-15 (U15)] for an entire season. Purposeful headers were categorized for these three teams and their opposition.

    Results: The median number of headers experienced during games was one, and the minimum number of headers was zero. The maximum number of headers performed during a game by a U13 player was eight, and nine for U14 and U15 players. There were statistically significant differences in the number of headers performed in the different age groups (p < 0.05), but no significant differences between player position (p > 0.05). There was no significant association between head impact location and game scenario (p > 0.05).

    Conclusions: Our study shows that youth players frequently head the ball during games. This information may guide data-driven approaches regarding heading restrictions in youth soccer.


    Gender differences at work: relishing competence or seeking a challenge?

    The Conversation, Rachel Morrison from

    … Within the workplace, deriving genuine enjoyment from being skilled at something, and using those skills and abilities to succeed, is a very rewarding experience. This feeling, along with the jewels, is what Debbie was after.

    On the other hand, risking failure with unfamiliar tasks, or when taking on new and difficult assignments, can be a terrifying experience, even though ultimately rewarding if we succeed.

    Both experiences relate to “self-efficacy beliefs” – workers’ perceptions about their competence or ability. Our research shows interesting gender differences in whether people prefer feeling either truly capable or else challenged to stretch their abilities.



    Why are women athletes still paid less than men?

    Minnesota Public Radio, MPR News, Kerri Miller and Jo Erickson from

    Women have been working toward equal pay for more than 50 years, and when it comes to some of the highest-paid female athletes in the U.S. they earn a fraction of what their male counterparts rake in.

    Why do women continue to get paid less? And does the lack of investment translate into fewer opportunities for development and sponsorship?


    WNBA players are still treated like second-class citizens. It’s on the NBA to fix that.

    The Washington Post, Kevin Blackistone from

    This is what second-class citizenship in pro sports looks like:

    Last summer, the Minnesota Lynx lost home-court advantage for the entirety of the WNBA playoffs despite having finished the regular season with a league-best 27-7 record. They were forced off their regular season floor in St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center — where they were playing while their usual home court, Target Center in Minneapolis, was being renovated — to make way for the local NHL franchise, the Wild.

    The Wild wasn’t in the playoffs. It wasn’t even playing critical regular season contests. It was just playing games that didn’t count, in its preseason. Or as Allen Iverson would say, “Not a game, we talkin’ about practice.”


    Extra Extra

    The Pudding, Jan Diehm & Amber Thomas from

    Women’s pockets are way too small, a problem that has now been visualized by the creative data visualizers over at The Pudding.

    A team of 200 scientists have published 94% of the sprawling wheat genome.

    There’s an intriguing (semi-paywalled) article at The Economist on how the internet has improved dating, making it easier for the marginalized to find each other.


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