Throughout their lifespans, women undergo unique endocrinological changes relative to their reproductive hormones. The influence of how the female sex steroid hormones have nonreproductive actions is a trending topic of great interest in the exercise–sports sciences, especially among women of reproductive age. Herein, we present several key points on our perspective for moving the study of this topic forward in the future. These are (a) encouraging researchers to pursue high-quality research on female physiology–endocrinology in the exercise–sports science setting, (b) the need for exercise–sports science educational curriculums at the university level to embrace the study of female physiology–endocrinology area, and (c) the need for innovation in the study of this topic. As such, we propose using research design models involving supraphysiological hormonal states in vivo, that is, pregnancy and in vitro fertilization treatment, to gain new insights on sex steroid hormonal actions in women. Herein, we provide the rationale for our recommendations as well as a brief physiological overview of these clinical states. We acknowledge, exercise sports sciences need more studies on women! But there is a need to “think outside the box” on this topic, and we encourage researchers to be unconventional, be bold, think creatively, and contemplate whether these supraphysiological hormonal states might give them insightful information on female physiology and ovarian sex steroid hormones actions.
Female Physiology–Endocrinology: Education Is Lacking and Innovation Is Needed!
Anthony C. Hackney and Kirsty J. Elliott-Sale
Girls, Women, and Female Athletes in Sport Psychology: A Decade-Long Review of the Literature
Alex Murata, Cailie S. McGuire, Madison Robertson, Mia KurtzFavero, Jennifer T. Coletti, Philip B. Simpson, Ella Pierone, Luc J. Martin, and Jean Côté
The underrepresentation of female research participants, women, and girls has been highlighted as an issue of concern within a variety of research areas and disciplines across academia. More specifically, this lack of visibility has contributed to widening knowledge gaps regarding these populations while also perpetuating and strengthening existing inequities. Given these concerns, the purpose of this review was to explore whether similar imbalances could exist within the sport psychology literature and, if so, what future research projects might be completed to rectify these issues. To do so, all articles (n = 3,005) published between the years of 2011 and 2021 in five journals of sport psychology were assessed. Following an analysis of the relevant studies collected, it was found that more articles including all boys, men, and male athletes (n = 343) were published within this time frame compared with articles including exclusively girls, women, and female athletes (n = 155). Additionally, it also appeared that research working with girls, women, and female athletes was lacking: (a) in recreational sport, (b) at both young and older ages, and (c) within team sport contexts. Further, most of the studies assessed often conflated participant sex- and gender-descriptive terminology. As such, it is highly encouraged that researchers in sport psychology make greater strides to conduct purposeful and targeted research focusing on girls, women, and female athlete participants and their specific issues over the coming years.
Volume 31 (2023): Issue 2 (Oct 2023)
Dance in Black and White: Examining the Stereotypes of Black and White Ballerinas and Hip-Hop Dancers
Sydney Klein, Colin A. Zestcott, and Alaina Brenick
Throughout the course of ballet dance history, White ballerinas have maintained the spotlight—subsequently leaving limited representation of Black ballerinas. However, other forms of dance, such as hip-hop, may yield greater representation of Black dancers due to hip-hop’s origins during the Harlem Renaissance. The current work examined if perceivers stereotype ballet and hip-hop as dance forms more suited for White or Black dancers, respectively. Two hundred sixty-eight online participants completed explicit and implicit (implicit association test) stereotyping measures examining endorsement of the ballet = White and hip-hop = Black stereotypes. In step with predictions, results showed that individuals were more likely to explicitly and implicitly endorse White women as ballerinas and Black women as hip-hop dancers. In addition, participants with ballet and hip-hop dance experience were less likely to endorse the stereotype that ballet dancers are White and hip-hop dancers are Black. Moreover, less stereotype endorsement also predicted greater likelihood of seeing a ballet or hip-hop performance in the future. These findings suggest that perceivers hold expectations about racial identities of dancers in ballet and hip-hop dance. Future directions regarding the role of race and stereotyping in the world of dance and the performing arts are discussed.
“Invisible Sportswomen 2.0”—Digging Deeper Into Gender Bias in Sport and Exercise Science Research: Author Gender, Editorial Board Gender, and Research Quality
Emma S. Cowley, Sam R. Moore, Alyssa A. Olenick, and Kelly L. McNulty
Objectives: Women are underrepresented as participants in sport and exercise science research, and most of the research is of low quality. To reduce the gender data gap, it is imperative to understand where this bias originates. The purpose of this study was (a) to evaluate the proportion of first and last author, and editorial board gender, and (b) to explore the association between gender and quality of female-specific research methods. Method: Studies exclusively investigating female participants (2014–2021) were extracted from a larger data set and updated through 2022. First author, last author, and editorial board gender were determined (e.g., from gender pronouns on institutional profiles, Google Scholar, and ResearchGate). Where applicable, study methodology was assessed by giving each study a quality score (0–1) based on key methodological considerations. Descriptive statistics were used to describe author and editorial board gender frequencies. Analyses of variance were used to investigate the associations between gender and female-specific methodological quality. Results: Within 438 female-only studies, data revealed a greater proportion of women first authors (55%) and men last authors (62%). There was an association between women authors (first, last, and both) and higher quality score for female-specific methods across all journals (p = .00–.04). The two lowest-ranked journals for quality score demonstrated worse gender parity within their editorial board (0%–12% women). Conclusions: The results from this study show that most female-only studies were senior authored by men. However, studies led by women had higher quality of female-specific methods. Future research is needed to explore gender distribution of senior academics.
A Review of the Impact of Sporting Role Model-Led Interventions on Physical Activity and Sport Participation of Female Youth
Eimear Kelly, Katie Liston, Kieran Dowd, and Aoife Lane
There is a lack of evidence of on the impact of how sporting role models (SRM) influence adolescent physical activity (PA) and/or sport participation (SP) levels. The main aim of this review was to identify SRM-led interventions and highlight the evidence of impact of SRMs on female adolescents’ participation in PA and/or SP. A systematic review of peer-reviewed literature using key search terms was completed using electronic databases (APA PsycInfo, SPORTDiscus, and PubMed). The inclusion criteria were as follows: (a) Participants were ≤18 years old, (b) results were reported for female participants, (c) the study included an intervention arm/element, (d) an SRM or equivalent terminology was used as part of the intervention, (e) PA levels and/or SP was evaluated, and (f) peer-reviewed articles published in English. A total of 7,169 peer-reviewed articles were identified and screened. A systematic review of grey literature to identify SRM programs was also carried out through Google search engine, direct contact with relevant sporting organizations, and with authors who had written about role models, and 45 programs were identified. Identified documents were screened using the same inclusion criteria as described above. The results identified one peer-reviewed and 15 grey literature programs, all of which were deemed to be of poor quality. The programs revealed a lack of theoretical base and rigor in methodology, no objective PA or SP assessment, poor demographic context of participants and role models, and lack of evaluation.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Team Sport Engagement: The Perceptions of Adolescent Females in Victoria
Rachel Keane and Mandy Ruddock-Hudson
The purpose of this study was to qualitatively investigate the impact of restrictions in response to coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) on team sport engagement from the perspectives of Victorian adolescent females. In 2022, 10 female athletes aged between 14 and 17 years, recruited via snowball sampling, took part in semistructured interviews exploring their experiences and perceptions during the pandemic. Three higher order themes emerged: (a) team sport barriers during COVID-19, (b) emotional responses of athletes during COVID-19, and (c) behavioral reactions of athletes during COVID-19. Findings indicated that athletes reported harsh restrictions, a lack of social interaction, and resources severely impacted training, ultimately resulting in poor motivation, lowered mood, and decreased sport enjoyment. Athletes also expressed concern in relation to spreading the virus, adhering to restrictions, and discovering lost skills and ability postlockdown. Guided by the self-determination theory, the perceived reduction in motivation and sport engagement for Victorian female athletes during COVID-19 was a result of the added depletion of autonomy, relatedness, and competence during the strictest lockdowns worldwide. The practical implications of this research offered new qualitative insights into how extended lockdowns and limited sport engagement impacted participation of female youth athletes who resided in the most locked-down state in the world. It also provided a strong foundation to enhance female motivation and sport engagement through addressing athletes’ self-efficacy levels and encouraging enjoyable and socially simulating sporting contexts following the COVID-19 pandemic.
Successful Physical Activity Maintainers: Strategies and Characteristics of Young African American Women
Chloe S. Jones, Cristina S. Barroso, Lindsey A. Miossi, Eugene C. Fitzhugh, and Lyndsey M. Hornbuckle
African American (AA) women have disproportionately high physical inactivity and obesity prevalence rates in comparison to their gender and racial counterparts. AA women experience unique barriers to leisure-time physical activity (LTPA); however, methods to overcome these barriers are less developed. Therefore, this study used semistructured interviews to explore strategies of young, active AA women that support LTPA maintenance and to identify their psychosocial and behavioral characteristics. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire-long was also administered to provide descriptors of participants’ LTPA. Ten women (age: M = 26.1, SD = 1.7 years) who met national guidelines for aerobic or muscle-strengthening LTPA at least 6 months (aerobic LTPA: M = 2,578.0, SD = 1,228.5 metabolic equivalent-minutes [MET-min]/week; muscle-strengthening physical activity: M = 4.0, SD = 1.9 days/week) completed the study. Four categories emerged from the interviews: (a) early-life contributors to LTPA participation, (b) characteristics of current LTPA, (c) initiating LTPA participation, and (d) maintaining LTPA participation. Findings revealed participants identified weightlifting as a preferred type of LTPA, identified various planning/preparation methods to overcome LTPA challenges, and relied on social media to initiate and maintain LTPA. This study identified several strategies used by young AA women to maintain regular LTPA and program preferences. These data are important in this understudied group as similar strategies may help inactive young AA women overcome LTPA challenges and promote long-term adherence. This could help prevent health and physical activity disparities in this population.
The Effect of Detraining After a Period of Training on Menopausal Symptoms and Quality of Life
Maryam Hosseini, Maryam Koushkie Jahromi, Negar Kouroshfard, and Mohammadamin Safari
Although the effect of some types of exercise on some menopausal symptoms has been approved, the effect of exercise training and detraining, especially during long duration, on menopausal symptoms is not clear yet. Therefore, this study aimed to evaluate the effect of training as well as detraining before and during the COVID-19 outbreak. Ninety postmenopausal women participated in the study voluntarily in three groups, including never-active (women who did not participate in regular exercise), formerly active (previously active women who had stopped exercise training for 1 year while participating for 1–3 years before COVID-19), and active women (women who participated in regular physical activity during and 1–3 years before COVID-19). Physical, psychological, and sexual symptoms of menopause as well as the quality of life were assessed using the Menopause-Specific Quality of Life questionnaire. Before COVID-19, menopausal symptoms were lower and quality of life was higher in active and formerly active groups compared with the never-active group. During COVID-19, menopausal symptoms in all three groups increased significantly. Most of the menopausal symptoms in active women were less than in the other two groups. In summary, exercise reduced menopausal symptoms and improved quality of life. However, these positive effects were eliminated by stopping exercise for 1 year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Knowledge, Attitudes, and Behaviors Toward the Menstrual Cycle and Menstruation Among Elite African Women Football Players, Coaches, Health Personnel, and Referees
Nonhlanhla S. Mkumbuzi, Senanile B. Dlamini, Andreas Serner, Katrine Okholm Kryger, Natalie Brown, Brianna Larsen, and Fidelis Chibhabha
Despite cross-cultural differences in knowledge and attitudes toward menstruation, most studies on menstruation in women’s sport have been conducted in high-income countries, such as in Europe, and none have been conducted in Africa. The aim of this study was to explore the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors of African elite women football players, and their support personnel toward the menstrual cycle and menstruation. An anonymous questionnaire was distributed to all participants (n = 564) at two African women football tournaments. Ultimately, 238 women football players, 44 coaches, 18 health personnel, and 17 referees completed it. From 317 questionnaires analyzed, 17%, 27%, 56%, and 0% of players, coaches, health personnel, and referees, respectively, knew at least one menstrual cycle hormone; 91%, 95%, and 100% of players, coaches, and referees, respectively, did not know at least one menstrual cycle phase. Over 70% of health personnel believed that menstruation negatively affects women’s performance in sports compared with 36% of players; 18%, 28%, and 18% of players, health personnel, and referees, respectively, believed that, for convenience, the menstrual cycle should be changed by drugs like contraceptives; and 54%, 61%, 62%, and 40% of players, coaches, health personnel, and referees, respectively, were confident providing advice about the menstrual cycle to teammates. Minimal knowledge of the menstrual cycle has implications on the development of menstrual cycle considerate training environments and educational materials in African women’s football. Furthermore, the relatively low perceived effect of the menstrual cycle on sporting performance and belief in the use of contraceptives may be attributable to differences in community-level religiocultural and social contexts which influence menstrual experiences, and shape behavioral expectations.