INVISIBLE SPORTS WOMEN (yes, our paper title was inspired by the book invisible women). — The sex & data gap in sport & exercise science.
This past year I teamed up with @emmacowley44 and @periodoftheperiod (and Emma Ross) to work on this paper looking at the current data gap in our field on women in sports science literature.
This paper builds on the second most recent publication, Costello et al., 2014 looking at 6 of the most popular sports science journals from 2014-2020. Finding that well… not much has changed in the last 6 years regarding this topic.
We found that in over 5,000 studies published during this time, only 6% were done only on women. With 31% being done only on men & 63% including both.
Of these studies, there were 8,253,236 total participants— 34% of which were women & 66% of which were men.
Furthermore that when looking at female or male ONLY studies — 14% of male only studies report so in the title. With 63% of female only studies reporting so in the title.
& of the male only publications, only 0.6% of them looked at male specific topics. Where as 20% of female only studies looked at female specific topics.
This means that 99.4% of the other papers done on men could have included women in the study design.
While we as a group recognize the “limits” to studying women — as we are all doing that work. We also acknowledge that the stats here are no better than they were 6 years ago, despite a bigger push for women sports science research.
We also encourage publication title transparency, whereas male or female only studies are reported as so vs. the assumption it’s in both or applies to all people.
Women specific and/or menstrual cycle specific work, work on contraceptives, pregnancy & menopause are all vital. Not just for sport and exercise performance outcomes in a growing field of female athletes — but also for the overall health and well-being of women.
While data on menstrual cycle effects is currently murkier — there does appear to be a more established sex difference in sport, exercise & health outcomes in women. Therefore we hope to see more work continue to come out in the upcoming years!