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Female Sport Participation Effect on Long-Term Health-Related Quality of Life

Stracciolini, Andrea, MD*,†,‡,§; Amar-Dolan, Laura, MD; Howell, David R., PhD, ATC*,†,‖; Alex, Taylor, Psy‖,**,††; Berkner, Paul, DO‡‡; J. Sandstrom, Noah, PhD§§; Peluso, Mark, MD¶¶; Kurtz, Mathew, PhD‖‖; Rebekah, Mannix, MD, MPH§,‖; Meehan, William P. III, MD*,†,‡,§,‖

doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000645
Original Research: PDF Only

Background: Female participation in sport has grown substantially over the last 4 decades.

Objectives: We investigated the association between sports participation and (1) later-life health outcomes and (2) later-life quality-of-life (QoL) measures among female college alumni.

Methods: We conducted a cross-sectional study of female alumni between the ages of 40 and 70 years. Participants completed a questionnaire that included QoL measures assessing general health, negative consequences of alcohol use, mental health, and other self-reported health outcomes. We divided alumni into athletes and nonathletes. Between-group comparisons of health outcomes were adjusted for age; QoL measures were adjusted for age, exercise habits, cigarette smoking, alcohol use, and comorbidities.

Results: Questionnaires were sent to 47 836 alumni, 3702 (8%) responded. Forty-four percent of female respondents participated in collegiate sports. After adjusting for age, female respondents who participated in collegiate sports were more likely to exercise >3×/week (61.8% vs 50.2%; P ≤ 0.001), view themselves in good/great health (91% vs 85%; P < 0.001), and less likely to have ever smoked (13.6% vs 25.3%; P ≤ 0.001) or used recreational drugs (7.5% vs 9.5%; P = 0.018). A smaller proportion of female athletes reported hypertension (5.5% vs 13.5%; P ≤ 0.001), high cholesterol (9.9% vs 17.0%; P < 0.001), and obesity (3.1% vs 6.8%; P = 0.001) compared with nonathletes. Participation in sports was, however, associated with decreased mobility (R2 = 0.1826; P = 0.002) and increased anxiety (R2 = 0.039; P = 0.016) QoL scores.

Conclusions: Sports participation for female collegiate athletes was associated with mostly positive health outcomes, but also with lower mobility and increased anxiety QoL scores.

*The Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Waltham, Massachusetts;

Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedics, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts;

§Division of Emergency Medicine, Department of Medicine, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

Division of Critical Care, Department of Anesthesia, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

Brain Injury Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

**Division of Sports Medicine, Sports Concussion Clinic, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

††Department of Neurology, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts;

‡‡Health Services, Colby College, Waterville, Maine;

§§Department of Psychology, Williams College, Williamstown, Massachusetts;

¶¶Middlebury College, Middlebury, Vermont; and

‖‖Department of Psychology, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut.

Corresponding Author: William P. Meehan III, MD, Division of Sports Medicine, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, Micheli Center for Sports Injury Prevention, Boston Children's Hospital, Boston, MA 02115 (

The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Received March 09, 2018

Accepted June 22, 2018

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