Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Female Athletes and Injuries

I finally got around to reading the NYT story on high injury rates in young women's sports (its long, but I highly recommend reading it).

The article outlines the much higher rate of injury for female athletes than male athletes. And attempts to explain why, biologically:

Girls and boys diverge in their physical abilities as they enter puberty and move through adolescence. Higher levels of testosterone allow boys to add muscle and, even without much effort on their part, get stronger. In turn, they become less flexible. Girls, as their estrogen levels increase, tend to add fat rather than muscle. They must train rigorously to get significantly stronger.

This divergence between the sexes occurs just at the moment when we increasingly ask more of young athletes, especially if they show talent: play longer, play harder, play faster, play for higher stakes.

And why, politically:

Advocates for women’s sports have had to keep a
laser focus on one thing: making sure they have equal access to high-school and
college sports. It’s hard to fight for equal rights while also broadcasting
alarm about injuries that might suggest women are too delicate to play certain
games or to play them at a high level of intensity.

I found this article very interesting because I actually have a sports injury from high school cross-country. I ran my freshman and sophomore years of school in a fairly intensive program. The beginning of my sophomore year, after running all summer, I began to have a constant dull aching in my knee. I told my coach, but he didn't take me seriously, so I continued to run, trying to ignore the worsening pain. I told him again, and he told me, in fewer words, that I was to stop complaining like a girl, suck it up, and keep running, like a man. And I did, finishing out the season, only to have a specialist explain to me later that year that I had pulled the muscle in my knee, which is supposed to lie over the knee, far sideways. He explained that I could have surgery, or go to physical therapy. I went for to therapy for about six months, but the pain never subsided. It still hasn't. I have continuous pain and throbbing in my knee, the level of which varies day to day. I can't squat without being in intense pain, and my knee cracks about five times every time I bend it.

This is just my experience, but, hell, the personal is political, and maybe I wouldn't be injured if I had been taken seriously and my legitimate pain hadn't be chalked up to girlish whining.

Oh, and to the second commentor, Noah from DC, on the NYT article who said:

Until they are propagandized and browbeaten by
ideologically-driven feminists, girls are naturally less interested in most
sports than boys are.Why not let girls be girls instead of trying to force them
to be bad imitations of boys?

Fuck you.


Jen said...

I feel your pain, Kate, literally.

I was in varsity dance for four years, and many years before that. I've had three knee surgeries. In cold weather, my knee is extremely painful, and I cannot walk more than a mile or two.

Our star quarterback broke his leg in three places my senior year, while I was captain of squad and student body VP, and suspended from the team while I recovered from my third surgery. They had a "get well" parade for Josh, and set up a donation system to help his family with the expenses.

Me? Well, the dance program got its funding cut in half that year and no one but my teammates noticed my injury and absence from the squad.

Our dance squad went to state and placed nationally. Our football team did not even place in our local division.

Guess which team and injured player got the most media coverage?

Amelia said...

Knee injuries freak me out, and I've never even had a serious one.

That bothers me so much, the idea that if a female athlete is in serious pain she just has to "suck it up" in order to save face for all female athletes. I have known so many girls who have done that, and it never turned out well for them.

But I mean, that's what we get for trying to be "bad imitations of boys," right?

Jen said...

Good point Amelia. Our pain is either faked or evidence that we are too fragile to do something.

Another lose-lose situation for all women.

Lindsay said...

The "bad imitation of boys" comment, reminded me of some of the other comments in the posts about sports here... The whole phrasing of it makes sports something men do and women don't; that to try anyway is just a half-hearted version of men's sports.

Maybe that's why women have to try a lot harder to achieve the same thing, to the detriment of their knees and other body parts.