The Thinking 

Female Athletes Who Play to Please

May 30, 2012


MR. TALL writes:

There’s an interesting book by New York Times reporter Michael Sokolove called Warrior Girls that documents the staggering rates at which girls playing seemingly ‘safe’ sports such as soccer and basketball suffer both ACL tears and concussions. Sokolove intersperses his research data with the sad stories of girls who have undergone repeated surgeries and painful, tedious rehabilitation, only to be reinjured and left essentially crippled for life. One theme he explores is the way in which girls, consumed by team spirit, loyalty and eagerness to please parents and coaches, push themselves through pain harder than many boys would ever do.

As you might expect of a Times employee, however, Sokolove quickly dons his PC Safety Blinders when it comes time to draw conclusions from his findings. He also wastes many pages of the book extolling the Monument to Justice that is Title IX.

 I’ve reviewed it briefly here, if anyone’s interested.

                                                           — Comments —

James P. writes:

Mr. Tall writes about sports injuries among female athletes. I was interested to learn some time ago that the most dangerous sport for girls is… cheerleading. Girls are more likely to suffer catastrophic injuries — fractured skulls, paralysis, or death — in cheerleading than any other sport. This is because cheerleading is no longer just standing on the ground waving pompoms. Instead, girls do gymnastic stunts in which they are hurled 20 or 30 feet in the air, often above a hard gymnasium floor, and never with anything to cushion the fall. As the article notes, cheerleading is usually not considered an official sport, and thus doesn’t require the same safety equipment, limits on practice time or training for coaches that are enforced for other high school sports.

Paul writes:

Cheerleading: Perhaps the most dangerous amateur sport.

A Grateful Homemaker writes:

There is a beautiful young woman in my church who is paralyzed and in a wheelchair due to a cheerleading accident a few years back. I tried to discourage my daughters from getting into competitive sports due to the further connection to training and competing leading to cessation of their periods ,possible long term decrease in fertility, very low body fat and a concern that at least one of my daughters might slip into anorexia or bulimia. I have absolutely seen this happen to a few young women (not my daughters).

In high school, I was a long distance runner, hurdler and long jumper. When I got to college there wasn’t much support out there for women’s programs and I just dropped it all, rechannelling it to personal physical fitness. This probably saved me from a number of possible injuries and overtraining. There did seem to be people who were type A’s who ended up anorexic, also. Sports such as ice skating, gymnastics and dance can foster these unhealthy habits with food. I also knew a man who developed exercise anorexia. He was always very successful and driven in his academic and career life but carried his running efforts to the debilitating level until he was forced to seek help.

It is obvious to me that personal exercise programs can also encourage women to go for a certain look that can lead to injuries and an unhealthy level of workout for the body. This is especially true for those of us who are older. The number of exercise DVDs available is incredible with only the individual’s so-called common sense to guide them from avoiding certain intensities or simply positions that are required in these workouts. In my city there is constant urging to be part of various charity runs or even triathlons for charity. These are supposedly for the average fit person of any age but I avoid these like the plague as I notice what it does to the knees,hips and even skin of women out there practicing for these competitive runs.

It is possible to take the same self discipline required in sports and use it for personal exercise and health at all ages of life. You get most of the goodies of the sport without all of the pressure and possible health issues. Athletes are gods in this country and can make some serious moola. Watch what happens even with female athletes after the Olympics in terms of endorsements. It feels really great to win, it feels interesting to get the endorphin focus and for women a feeling of power and control as you compete is a bit intoxicating. However, I am happy to be in shape and uninjured and continue to advise my daughters to enjoy fitness, not sports competition.

June 2

Paul writes:

It is dangerous and a misuse of valuable time for women to engage in sports heavily. The few female sports people enjoy watching are gymnastics and ice skating. The female form is accentuated, and the females are nice looking. But gymnastics produces a lot of injuries. It needs to be scaled back. For example, the balance bar should be burned. People pay little time to watch female sports and always will because there is limited time and people want to watch the best, men.

There are always exceptions to generalizations. Tennis is the biggest exception. But even tennis has become dull with masculine women dominating. No more Chris Evert. Sharapova is prettier, but then she is not dominating as Evert was.

Of course women should play sports, which are fun. But the intensity should be scaled way back. Play for fun, not to become champion. I always played baseball that way. If you are talented, you will be a champion.

Men are different. We strive to be physically (and mentally) strong because that is the way we are designed. And many men pay a heavy price. I paid with a ruptured disc. Women don’t need to pay such a price because traditionally no one expected them to do so and society will gain nothing from a break with tradition. There are so many cultural and intellectual exploits that women can enjoy, as most men are “limited” to enjoying. Most men were never significant athletes relative to other men. So why must women be significant athletes relative to anyone?

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