Saturday, January 24, 2004

Are Women More Prone to Injuries?

"Are women more prone to injuries? It's that time of year when many people start trying to get into shape, but it may be more difficult for women than men. In fact, when it comes to beginning an exercise program or trying out a new sport, men and women may not always be created equal."

This is what my screen revealed when I clicked on the link to for its Headline News.
To learn more about these injury-prone women, I clicked on the 'full story' link, eager to find out exactly what makes women so fragile or clumsy-footed.

But of course I was disappointed. The 'full story' refers to two military studies, one done in Britain and one in the U.S.. The British study found that female recruits were eight times more likely to be discharged for injuries once men and women were put on the same basic training program. The research concluded that

"...differences in strength, bone mass and the length of their strides put women at a greater risk of getting hurt."

Bone mass, strength, length of stride? In other words, smaller people were found to be more at risk for injuries in a program that most likely is extremely demanding and geared to the bone mass, weight and length of stride of larger people. Now, women are, on average, smaller than men, but most women who initiate an exercise program are not going to pick up the British military training manual and blindly follow it as the ideal daily routine. Keep in mind the preface to this story: "It's that time of the year when many people start trying to get into shape..."

The American military study had similar findings, but found out that the injury gap narrowed as training proceeded. This made the researchers suggest that

"...the level of fitness matters more than gender, and that women, on average, start out at lower levels than men."

And what can we conclude from this story? Its author believes that it is

"If you're starting an exercise program or a new sport, take it easy. You'll be less likely to get hurt, and when you've reached the level of fitness that you want -- go get 'em!"

Ok, sort of, though this conclusion has nothing to do with the way the article lured us in to begin with. And it is not all that we are going to take with us after reading it. We are also going to have a slightly greater belief in women's greater injury-proneness, whether such injury-proneness exists or not. After all, it was in CNN news!

The manner in which this story was sold is common for reporting of this ilk: first hint at great new revelations about what makes women women and men men, then go into a summary of various, often half-baked, research findings, but always, always finish with something that lets the gender that's been getting the bad rap (usually women) to feel that they have not been getting such a bad rap after all. This sells, I guess. But it doesn't change the basic message of such writings.

I, for one, expect more from writers who pretend to tell people how to live their lives, including how to exercise safely. Some proper research into the field, applicable to average individuals and their average circumstances would be good. Avoidance of pitting one gender against another would also be good, and tying the message of the piece to its title and preface would be excellent.

I, for one, will probably expect forevermore, at least with regard to writings aimed at strengthening and manufacturing women's many insecurities.
And whatever blogger says, this IS a Saturday's post.
PS: Read this excellent article on why women's bodies attract so much more interest in the medical subspecialty of "Feeble, Weak and Withering" when there are no real reasons for this.
Thanks to Amy (in the comments) for the link.