Women, Sport, and Physical Activity: A Special Series
This special series of the Translational Journal of the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) is published in partnership with the ACSM Strategic Health Initiative on Women, Sport and Physical Activity (SHI-Women), Dr. Laura Rogers (Chair, 2013 to 2019). This special series represents another important milestone in the SHI-Women’s progress to further highlight translational research focused on the sport and physical activity-related needs of women. The associate editors are Drs. Kristin Campbell and Anne F. Fish. The series editor is Dr. Linda May, an expert in maternal and child health measures related to exercise during pregnancy.
There are many unanswered questions regarding gender differences, gender-specific aspects of women in sport and physical activity, and the clinical application of these issues. Research in women continues to lag behind evidence-based research conducted in men. In an effort to address this gap in the literature and begin to answer questions on current sports performance, fitness, and related clinical care issues that women face, this special series (a) highlights three translational research articles relevant to clinical practice and (b) commences a regular Women in Sports and Exercise Series in the journal.
Subsequent to the work of the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women and Title IX legislation in the 1970s, women and girls have more opportunities and a greater interest in competitive sports. Starting in the 1980s, the NIH began to recognize potentially detrimental consequences if sex differences were not considered in health and exercise research (https://orwh.od.nih.gov/toolkit/recruitment/history). This opened the way to more equity in NIH funding for exercise in women. Since 1994, ACSM’s SHI-Women continues to make a difference by addressing current issues facing women's health and fitness through clinical practice, research, public information, leadership opportunities, mentoring programs, and advocacy. The time is now to keep this trajectory of success in motion, with even greater attention to research in women in sports and exercise.
This section provides a brief overview of the studies included in this special series. Dr. Weir and colleagues answer the question as to whether a two-year biomechanically informed ACL injury prevention training program is efficacious in reducing injury risk and injury incidence; they investigate its effect on athletic performance in twenty-six elite female field hockey players. Their research demonstrates the translation of a preventive program to the sports arena in order to enhance sports performance in women, reducing injury and decreasing time out of play. Also Dr. Albright and colleagues conducted a randomized controlled trial and examined a tailored eHealth condition consisting of personalized telephone counseling plus access to a website tailored to new mothers’ issues for engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) issues versus a website with only standard MVPA materials, in 311 initially underactive, healthy women who were 2 to 12 months postpartum. This study looks at a targeted approach to addressing challenges to physical activity faced by women during a key stage of life. Finally, Dr. Hornbuckle’s team examined the effects of a 10-month secular versus faith-integrated community-based physical activity intervention on cardiometabolic risk factors in low active, African-American women. This study provides a culturally relevant program for women to enhance physical activity for diverse groups where a paucity of research has been documented.
The physical and emotional changes experienced by women across the lifespan are unique and require well designed scientific research that is then applied to clinical and community-level settings and distance-based delivery channels (e.g., eHealth). Translational research related to women’s health should consider important factors such as phase of the lifespan, minority populations, and intervention delivery/setting. Our goal is that this special series focusing on translational research will facilitate future attention to research that advances research that is directly relevant to women, sport, and physical activity.
Linda E. May1, Laura Q. Rogers2
1Departments of Foundational Science and Research, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Kinesiology; East Carolina University, Greenville, NC
2Department of Medicine, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL