Sport Paper on Gender differences in Sports Participation and Injuries


The subject of sports usually conjures up in the mind male-dominated sports such as soccer, rugby, and football, which is not incomprehensible considering that male participation in sports has been a part of societal practices since medieval times. In recent years, however, female participation in sports has significantly increased. Although most of the sports have similar rules for women and for men, the majority of discourses on female sports are related to attitudes. According to Vertinsky, gendered participation is explainable as a function of gender and sex symbolism in different societies at different periods (2). Similarly, the present-day gendered participation in sports is associated with the roles of the genders at the present time. Such gendered sports characterization makes it necessary to explore the history and attitudes of different genders in sports.

Besides the differences in attitudes and levels of participation in sports across different genders, the type of injuries experienced in sports also differ from one gender to another depending on the vulnerabilities of each gender. The present study was aimed at accomplishing the following objectives:

  • To understand the differences in the history of sports across the genders.
  • To explore the different types of injuries experienced by the genders in sports.
  • To compare the level of participation in sports across the genders.

To achieve these objectives, an exploratory qualitative approach was used. The study reviewed the literature on sports and how sports relate to the genders. Reputable academic sources were obtained through Google Scholar and other search engines, examined for their relevance to the research objectives, and used to provide the requisite information. The following sections of the paper provide a literature review based on the abstracted information, a discussion of the findings obtained from the different sources, and a conclusion about the outcomes of the current study.

Literature Review

Gender and Sports. The notion of gender in the evaluation of sports participation practices was explained by Vertinsky, who reported that gender offers a good way of examining historical perspectives (3). Vertinsky developed the perception that from literature on patriarchy to that on feminism, most authors focused on single aspects of the society and emphasized the dominance of one gender and the struggle by the other to attain equality. Similarly, the sports arena provides an opportunity to explore feminist approaches to sports participation. Female sports activities and studies on the same began to increase in the 1970s and rapidly grew during the 1980s. Even in those early years, women’s sports activities could not be explained distinctly from societal expectations and their roles in the society. Vertinsky reported that before the use of sports as a medium for communicating gender equality, it had been used to perpetuate male dominance and power over female sexuality (4).

The argument on using sports to perpetuate male dominance has also been described by Messner (197). Messner asserts that organized sports in the contemporary society serve as an institutional strategy for bolstering the ideology of male superiority, which had begun to falter. Increasing female participation in athletics is perceived as one of the practices aimed at challenging the ideology of male dominance and as an assertion of a genuine quest for gender equality (Messner 201). Females assert overt control over their bodies and self-definition, both of which defy the precepts of male dominance over women. Despite this genuine effort, female participation in sports is full of challenges in the form of societal expectations and constructions. As much as women athleticism has increased, the principles of engagement in such athleticism are different from those in the male-organized sports (Messner 210). The rules of playing and refereeing organized sports differ across the genders, subverting the counter-hegemonic efforts by feminists in the quest for female sports as a form of advocacy for equality. Rather than giving women the freedom to engage in sports without questioning, the female body has become contested in the face of sports challenges and practices. However, Colley, Roberts, and Chipps contended that while the societal perceptions of gender capabilities and roles have remained relatively the same, the organized sports environment is characterized by masculinity and extraversion (103). Even females in organized sports are perceived to be masculine and extraverted compared with those inactive in sports and athletics.

Experiences of women in organized sports such as soccer, basketball, handball, and rugby have been confirmed to be different from those of their male counterparts. Among sports officials, females reported experiencing higher rates of gendered abuse compared with men. According to a study conducted by Tingle, Warner, and Sartore–Baldwin, the experiences of women officiating organized sports were described through four key themes: gendered abuse, lack of mutual respect from male officials, lack of role modeling and mentoring, and perceived inadequacy of policy in allowing females to officiate organized sports (2). These challenges result in the inability of females to connect to the community of officials and eventually lead to their withdrawal from the sports arena. The probable driver of these challenges is the perception that women in sports challenge the hegemonic tendencies of male-dominated sports. While sports are still recognized as a strong cultural institution for reinforcing gender inequalities, Tingle et al. reported that there exists adequate legislation, policy, program development, and increasing social pressures for the recognition of women as essential stakeholders in sports (3). Increased participation of women in managerial expertise, increased participation both in the field and as a spectator, and heightened diversity in the field are some of the observed drivers of female recognition in sports and the movement towards gender equality therein.

Characteristics of Sports Injuries across Genders. Differential perceptions and engagement in organized sports across the genders have resulted in differences in the risk of injuries and actual sports-related injuries across the genders. Lin et al. hypothesized that although different types of sports injuries have been explored and understood, there is little recognition of the epidemiology, risk factors, and injury outcomes of those injury types across the genders (1). Understanding the prevalence of specific types of injury in a given participant population can help clinical officers conduct pre-habilitation as well as facilitate post-injury rehabilitation to victims of such injuries. For instance, Lin et al. described the concept of bone stress injuries (BSIs) and reported that these were common among females in professional sports (2). Anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries were reported to be more common among men. The prevalence of ACL in women was higher in college sports participants compared with those who played professionally. Concussions are prevalent across the genders, with male athletes more likely to have concussions through contact with other players. Female athletes, on the other hand, experience concussions through contact with playing equipment and are more likely to report such incidents.

Ristolainen et al. also conducted a research in which they aimed to determine the prevalence and risk factors of different injury types among the different genders (443). In the study, it was established that subject to equal training durations and intensities for the same games, males were more likely to report posterior thigh overuse-related injuries compared with females. There were, however, no reported differences in injury risk factors across the genders. For professional organized sports participants, the risk of injury in females was similar to that in males.

Findings and Discussion

The findings from the literature review indicate that gender differences have existed in sports participation over the years. Female participation in sports started in the 1970s and has continued to grow over the years. However, the consideration of sports in terms of male dominance has not changed significantly. On the one hand, sports are used as a basis for advocacy for gender equality. On the other hand, the differences in sports conduct between the two genders further the concept of male dominance. The impacts of such dominance have been felt at different sports levels. Of particular concern are the challenges that female officials in organized sports face compared with their male counterparts. Gendered abuse and lack of support from the male officials significantly contribute to disunity, and consequently, the female officials quit. Male officials feel that the inclusion of female officials in organized sports is an indication of policy limitations rather than appreciation of their competence in officiating sports.

As more females are engaged in the sports environment, they are also exposed to different types of injuries, which are also experienced by males in sports. However, according to research, some injuries such as ACL and posterior thigh overuse injuries are more common in men than in women. Likewise, BSI injuries are more common in females than in males. Concussions occur across the different genders, but as a result of different experiences. In females, concussions usually result from contact with the playing equipment, whereas males experienced concussions due to contact with fellow players. Effective rehabilitation of players requires an understanding of the risk factors for injury, thereby making appropriate preparations for addressing injuries in different populations.


Sports are complex phenomena, and thus, understanding the entire range of characteristics attributed to different genders in sports can be challenging. The present study has successfully provided answers to some of the key concerns in gendered sports participation. Sports have been shown useful in the development of certain social precepts. The concept of female participation in sports, for example, has been studied in the past. One school of thought is that female participation in sports is a strategy for pursuing gender equality. The other school of thought uses male domination in organized sports and the perceived differences between male and female sports as a counter-hegemonic concept. The perceived differences foster the notion that males are more robust than females, and hence, they are cut out for sports. This ideology has made it difficult for female officials in sports to perform optimally due to a lack of respect by other officials. Injuries in sports also portray slight differences in prevalence and types of experienced by different genders.


Works Cited

Colley, Ann, Roberts, Nigel, and Chipps, Anthony. Sex-role identity, personality and participation in team and individual sports by males and females. International Journal of Sport Psychology, vol. 16, (1985): 103- 112. Retrieved from

Lin, Cindy, Casey, Ellen, Herman, Daniel, Katz, Nicole, and Tenforde, Adam. Sex differences in common sports injuries. PM & R, (2018). Retrieved from

Messner, Michael A. Sports and Male Domination: The Female Athlete as Contested Ideological Terrain. Sociology of Sport Journal, vol. 5, no. 3, (1986): 197- 211. Retrieved from

Ristolainen, Leena, Heinonen, Ari, Waller, Benjamin, Kujala, Urho M., and Kettunen, Jyrki A. Gender differences in sport injury risk and types of injuries: a retrospective twelve-month study on cross-country skiers, swimmers, long-distance runners and soccer players. Journal of Sports Science & Medicine, vol. 8, no. 3, (2009): 443 – 451. Retrieved from

Tingle, Jacob K., Warner, Stacy, and Sartore-Baldwin, Melanie L. The experiences of former women officials and the impact on the sporting community. Sex Roles, vol. 71, no. 1, (2014): 7- 20. Retrieved from

Vertinsky, Patricia A. Gender relations, women’s history and sport history: a decade of changing enquiry, 1983-1993. Journal of Sport History, vol. 21, no. 1, (1994): 1- 24. Retrieved from