Christine Yu, a journalist and runner, experienced a knee injury while running in 2012. As a female athlete, she recognized the familiar feelings of embarrassment and shame that often come with injury. After researching women’s sports and health, Yu found that female athletes often blame themselves for their injuries and performance deficiencies, highlighting the existing gap in sports science surrounding female athletes.
Title IX was enacted in 1972 to ban sex discrimination in sports and other federally-sponsored educational programs, and it has increased the participation and scientific research funding for female athletes. However, 50 years later, gaps still remain in the field. The National Institutes of Health only established a policy encouraging researchers to include women in clinical research in 1986, and a law mandating the inclusion of women in clinical research wasn’t enacted until 1993.
Yu’s book, Up to Speed: The Groundbreaking Science of Women Athletes, provides a macro perspective on women’s sports and explains how sex and gender bias came to sustain the system of scientific research and sports for decades, contributing to injuries, performance, and long-term health. She devotes a whole chapter to the “Bounce Control,” discussing the impact of breast movement and sports bras on women’s experience of physical activity, which only recently started to be taken seriously within biomechanical research.
Yu also highlights the exclusion of perimenopause from sports science research and how the average age of menopause being 51 now dictates that women want to stay active longer and continue their physical pursuits.
Yu is hopeful for the future of women and sport science and recognizes the need for more diverse and comprehensive research to understand the unique needs and challenges of female athletes. The next generation of women athletes is demanding change in schools, coaches, and sports systems to achieve great sporting achievements.