Friday, November 14, 2008

Concussions in female hockey players

The hype (hysteria?) over women and their ACLs must be waning. Looks like the new focus* is on concussions. I've actually read a little about concussions in women's sports. The injury just doesn't receive nearly as much attention and "concern." This is likely because no one seems to be suggesting that there is something about a woman's physiology that predisposes her to concussions whereas that argument has been proffered to explain the higher rate of ACL injuries in women.
Oh, but wait. This article does seem to fluctuate between the rate as a trend versus an effect of physiology. Also, the data that suggest women are receiving concussions at a much higher rate are from an NCAA study of a relatively small sample. The NCAA's data do not reflect other research that has examined concussions rates in male and female hockey players. The article does mention other possibilities:
...reasons are varied, ranging from what sounds like sexist science – that women are more willing to consult medical staff than men – to weaker neck muscles to rigid, upright skating positions that compromise their balance. In a similar trend, the NCAA study also found female basketball and soccer players sustained concussion rates higher than those of their male counterparts, but less than those of female hockey players.
The article moves between challenging and reifying stereotypes about women in sports as it addresses issues such as how hard women play, level of aggression, muscle strength, skills and abilities, and ability to deal with injury/pain. I do sense though a bias toward female athletes as somehow innately inferior and certainly there are patronizing moments in it. My favorite was this:
Balmer is one of hockey's broken daughters, a growing group of players who are sustaining concussions in a virtual vacuum...
Nice prose, but a little hyperbolic and certainly condescending. "Broken daughters"? Nothing like invoking the image of a small, helpless girl child in need of protection from a father(-figure).

(h/t to Sean from Sportsbabel for sending the article my way.)

No comments: