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By men, about men: how bad is the gender research gap for women in exercise science?

July 8, 2023

Ever since the ancient Greeks came up with the idea of wandering wombs causing women’s “hysteria” and health problems, knowledge of female anatomy has lagged behind that of male anatomy.

Now, new research has found that the gender research gaps are playing out in exercise science, where research is done on men, by men, risking the injury, misdiagnosis and mistreatment of women.

Cisgender women, in general, have different hormones, different body fat distribution, a different (average) size and different risk factors for various diseases to men. They also have periods, pregnancies and menopause.

This year the journal Sports Medicine published an article arguing that there were enough differences between men and women who run ultramarathons, including fatigue and injury susceptibility, that sex-specific guidelines could be useful – although further research is required.

Research from the University of Melbourne found sport psychology research studies, which can influence coaching methods, injury management and performance psychology, are predominantly based on men.

An editorial in the British Medical Journal in June highlighted a range of studies showing the gender gap in sports research and the need to acknowledge and address it.

Another study, this one from April, found that when women led studies they were more likely to have equal numbers of men and women as participants.

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