The Female Athlete

I thought it would be interesting to look at a potential grey area in sport, by focusing on the female athletes involvement in sport; comparison to a male, the ‘female athlete triad’ and then the difference in pay or opportunity when they reach elite sport. There are many factors that can affect a females participation in sport and in this blog some areas will be explored. With regards to participation levels, according to official House of Commons statistics, 63% of men were active in sport compared to 58% of women, based on the Active Lives Survey data for year ending May 2017. On this particular document, it also stated that more than half of women who took part in the survey, preferred to do some from of fitness activity, such as; walking or gym sessions, rather than sport specific exercise (Audickas, 2017).

When considering the difference between the two genders in performance, it is key to know that the technical, tactical, social and psychological factors are the same for males and females. The only difference is the physical aspect. This does not mean all women are weaker than men, as this would not be a true statement, however there is research to suggest that females are genetically less physical than males. For example, men tend to have 66% more muscle than a women in the upper body and 50% more muscle in the lower body (Finlay, 2020). The physical aspect alone, is the sole reason there is different events for male and females.


In the table above, it shows a list of male and female world records and then the difference between the scores in a percentage. As stated earlier, there is a clear indication of the physical differences in both the cardiovascular events and then the power events. Research shows that men have larger vital organs than females, meaning a larger amount of oxygenated blood can be distributed around the body, as well as having higher haemoglobin stores, which gets this to muscles quicker and more efficiently (Finlay, 2020).

The Female Athlete Triad (Hoch et al., 2009)

In the diagram above, the ‘female athlete triad’ is a medical condition that is observed in physically active females. The three areas consist of low energy availability, which can be affected by eating disorders or not, menstrual cycle dysfunction, and low bone density. Firstly, an area in which I know can affect females massively is the low energy availability. This comes from a lack of eating and not achieving the necessary calorie intake to be productive each day. Some women, feel an urge to look a certain way in their bodies and this can cause them to take drastic measures in order to do so, in some circumstances, making themselves physically sick to lose weight. Another aspect that links too low energy is fatigue. This interlinks with the menstrual cycle as fatigue can be a common side effect when a woman comes on her period. For those females who suffer from irregular periods, which gets instigated by low oestrogen levels, can lead to lower bone mineral density. This is why conditions like osteoporosis or risk of stress fractures, are often associated with this (Hoch et al., 2009). When considering the sports that this triad occur most frequently in, are those of which females are expected to promote leanness, such as gymnastics and dancing. As a coach or practitioner there is a duty of care to ensure that all athletes in a session are safe and well enough to train, which in some cases women aren’t, leading to each of these sections being kicked into place.

Finally, motivation to be a professional athlete has to be massive, and requires vast amounts of dedication, with the 10,000 hours theory being considered as a highly true concept (Ericsson, 1996). However, a key aspect for pursuing a career as an athlete, is the chance of winning money or silverware, or for olympic athletes its the chance of getting gold medals or world records. Considering money, in some sports there is a massive difference in both pay and prize money between males and females. In the US, it is reported that annual earnings for women are about 19% lower than those of men (Bureau of Statistics, 2012). In a comparison between arguably the best male and female footballer at Tottenham Hotspurs, it shows that Alex Morgan earns a weekly salary of £64,820 where as Harry Kane earns weekly salary of £200,000. This suggest that Kane is paid more than three times the amount than Morgan, but why is this? The simple answer it is down to revenue. According to the Premier League brought in approximately 3 billion pounds during the 2018/19 season from broadcasting, 1.4 billion in commercial and sponsorship, followed by a match day revenue of 683 million pounds. In comparison. As well as this, there is a prize gap difference of 21 million pounds between males and females, meaning that the prize money received by an average male footballer is nearly 40 times higher than a female (Insure4sport, 2018). This lack of financial gain in the females game as well as the bodily changes women could limit their passion to succeed in sports. As an analyst, I feel it would be important to know this information as it could benefit performance. By watching the game or event, it could be apparent that an athlete was suffering from some issues that women encounter, therefore it would be beneficial to know what feedback to give and when to say it.

Reference List

Audickas. L., 2017 Sports participation in England Available at: [Accessed 8 December 2020]

Ericsson, K.A., 1996. The acquisition of expert performance: an introduction to some of the issues.

Hoch, A. Z., Pajewski, N. M., Moraski, L., Carrera, G. F., Wilson, C. R., Hoffmann, R. G.,et al. (2009). Prevalence of the female athlete triad in high school athletes and sedentary students. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine, 19(5), 421e428 2018. The UK’S Attitudes Towards Women In Sport – Insure4sport Blog. [online] Available at: [Accessed 8 December 2020].

Skraba, Z.P., 2016 Women’s World Records Compared Against Men’s World Records in Track & Field. Available at: [Accessed 8 December 2020]. [Accessed 8 December 2020].


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