Recently, I attended the Female Athlete Conference. After decades of working to get a seat at the table to have folks consider the needs of the female athlete, what a switch to be surrounded by 100’s of others with the same passion. I was immersed in all-things female* athlete, and it was glorious.
Female Athlete for the Win
The conference pulled together the collective wisdom of athletes, coaches, sports med physicians, physiotherapists, athletic trainers, kinesiologist, nutritionists, researchers, etc. There was even an adolescent sports gynecologist….what?!! I didn’t even know that was a thing. In addition, we got sneak peaks at upcoming female athlete expert consensus statements on Concussions, REDS, Menstrual Cycles and performance, and Postpartum care. Moreover, open forums about athlete mental health, gender, race, and disability inequalities, challenges in professional sport, coaching abuses, and athlete identity did not disappoint. (Check out resources here: USCenterforSafeSport.org and VoiceinSportFoundation.org)
I am still digesting all the content and the experience, but thought I would share a few of my major takeaways.
- Huge research leaders in female athlete medicine, all from different areas of care, collectively indicated that we have low to moderate quality evidence as it relates to the female athlete. For example, one statistic shared was that 6% of sport and exercise science research has been solely focused on females. While disheartening, it was somehow encouraging to know that the poor quality and QUANTITY of evidence in the athletic pregnancy, postpartum, and pelvic health arena wasn’t unique. Our little corner of the athlete world, we aren’t as far behind as I thought, and now there are financial resources to support the science to propel our care.
- However, recognition of our little corner of the athlete world is growing! The push by pregnancy and postpartum female athletes to continue to participate has shifted the interest of sports medicine researchers along the life stage continuum. Hopefully, our silo-smudging sports medicine + pelvic health community can be there to guide the research questions, and athletes that are moving into this chapter of their careers.
- The needs of a female athlete are multifactorial. The conversation is so much bigger than the strength of anyone muscle group, hormone fluctuations, or running forces. It takes a village, and thankfully the community of folks out there doing the work is growing and connecting.
- Check out a summary of specific highlights from colleagues @theactivewomensclinic.
- Consider checking out the virtual conference (it was all recorded) to glean your own takeaways! It is available until July 21. Stop by my e-poster on the early results of my research into the pelvic health clinical features and running biomechanics! More results are on the way!
We ALL Win
To sum it up…take care, and take heart. The seeds of all our hard work are starting to grow.
*Identified biological sex female at birth (ex: menstrual cycles, capacity for pregnancy, menopause).