Summer Reading

What are you reading this summer?

Summer can be a time when the pace of work and life slow just a bit, affording us a chance to pick up that book we’ve had sitting on our nightstand or follow through on someone’s suggestion for a ‘must read.’

I have a vacation coming up, during which time I plan to catch up a bit on my pleasure reading. The titles in that reading list are not particularly relevant to our world of sports medicine.  However, I did find the time this past week to read a book I have been ‘meaning to’ for a while, and it’s one I would certainly recommend to all my colleagues in the world of sports medicine.

It is:  “What Made Maddy Run”

I found myself engaging with this book on so many levels — as a human being (mental health issues can affect us all), as a former Ivy League athlete, as a consumer and producer of social media, as a father of teenage athletes, and yes, as a sports medicine clinician.  It was a powerful read, a ‘page turner’ — one that has left me thinking long after I turned the last page, the hallmark of a good book, I think.

Madison (Maddy) Holleran was a high level track runner attending Penn, one of her dream schools, as a freshman.  She came from a supporting, loving family, and was endowed with so many gifts. She was the person who ‘had it all.’ Her social media favorite — Instagram — provided the visuals and narrative confirming that.

But.

But, Maddy struggled with anxiety and depression, and she took her life early in the second semester of her first year at university, leaving so many people mourning the loss and full of questions.

The author Kate Fagan stepped into this story and has written such an insightful book on the nexus of youth sports, mental health, and social media.  Ms. Fagan herself is a former NCAA athlete who poignantly discusses her own struggles with mental health in this book.  Indeed, the story is first and foremost’s Maddy’s; but we come to know the struggles of two athletes as we read this book: the author’s and the subject’s. Read more of this post

Fitspo and the Olympics

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With one of my superstar athletes, softball player SB!

I was struck by two newspaper articles I read in the last two days.  I hope with this post mostly to share these articles, and that most of this blog’s readers will read them.  I do not want to provide a lot of my own commentary. I will explain in due course.

The first was published in the New York Times: “For those keeping score, American women dominated in Rio.” The second was shared with me by a friend in the UK, who sent me a Manchester Guardian piece: “Why has women’s fitness become a beauty contest?”

The Times article I am sharing not so much as a proud American* but as a fan of women’s sports and the power of sport to promote health in all its forms, mind, body and spirit.  The medal count for the USA Women’s Team would have seen it rank third in the overall standings (61)  if it had been its own country. The article explores some of the phenomena behind that remarkable performance, among which are the structural supports that empower large numbers of women in the USA to play sport from childhood on through elite sport.  As one of the commentators notes, however, the American dominance largely reflects the relative lack of such structural support throughout much of the rest of  the world: Donna Lopiano, a former executive director of the Women’s Sports Foundation, states, “We have the largest base of athletic development. Our women are going to dominate, not only because of their legal rights but because women in other parts of the world are discriminated against.”

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With another superstar, volleyball player BR.

The Guardian article makes for powerful reading.  This opinion piece also reflects on the positive power of women’s sport, as it quotes the American civil rights leader Susan B. Anthony, who wrote in 1896:  “Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a bike. It gives her a feeling of self-reliance and independence the moment she takes her seat; and away she goes, the picture of untrammeled womanhood.”

However, Anna Kessel, the author of the piece, spends most of the article exploring the connections between the Olympics we just saw and the rising #Fitspo movement, a social media phenomenon potentially reducing much of sport to a new body image obsession, one which, typically, disproportionately affects women.  She bemoans the many Olympic moments she saw where commentary about a woman’s sporting performance seemed overshadowed by her appearance or the outfit she wore.

Some of the musings I heard or read during the Olympic fortnight reminded me of Sepp Blatter’s infamous comment about what would make women’s soccer more interesting — ‘tighter shorts’.

As I wrote earlier, that’s the ‘share’. Two articles, well worth reading.  Check them out if you can, and let us know here what you think. Check out the #Fitspo movement on Twitter or Instagram and let us know what you think.

Writing for this blog, I always hope to stimulate a virtual conversation.  As I type these last few words, I am, of course, engaged in a written monologue–in front of my laptop, alone.  And I am painfully aware of my limitations as a straight man in commenting on these issues. When I read these articles, I mostly find myself nodding and, essentially, trying to listen to what the authors have to say.

I would love to hear what you have to say, as well.

*Up North, they are duly proud as well: a colleague from Canada reminds me that that country brought in 22 medals, 16 of which were earned by women.

Sports medicine: a career for all genders?

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Dawn Thompson, covering Brighton Marathon

I am pleased to step aside from writing for the blog today and turn over the stage to Dawn Thompson, CJSM Junior Associate Editor and a member of the ECOSEP Junior Doctors Committee.

Dawn and I have a shared background in sports medicine, but she brings a unique perspective to today’s post:  she is a woman, she is young, and she is still in training.  I am none of these things!

If sports is a mirror of society, then it should come as no surprise that in our own professional world we may see phenomena such as gender bias.   And for those of us who benefit from male privilege (me), Dawn’s post is a great reminder of the differential burden our female colleagues may face when trying to perform the same job duties as a man.

Here in the USA, 2016 is a particularly poignant moment in time: the Democratic party’s presumptive candidate for president is Hillary Clinton.  Will that political ‘glass ceiling’ be shattered?  What of our sports medicine colleagues who are women?  Do they face their own glass ceilings?

I cede the dais to Dawn:

______________________________________________________________________

DT: It’s 1.30am on a Tuesday morning and I am wide awake. Ideas, thoughts, concepts are racing through my mind at a rate I could only dream of during normal hours. I don’t normally suffer with insomnia but I have just completed a particularly gruelling acute medical block whereby in 4 months I have worked 8 full weekends and a total of 32 nights. So as you can see my body clock is totally up the spout. There have been times when I have wondered why I chose this profession and how compatible it is with any sort of family or social life and times when I have marveled at what I feel can be the best ‘job’ in the world.

During these 4 months, Junior Doctors like myself across Britain have taken part in 6 days of industrial action in response to the proposed imposition of a contract they felt to be unsafe and unfair to patients, themselves and the NHS. One of the many complaints with regards to the new contract was the impact it could potentially have on women taking time out for maternity or to work less than full-time to raise a family. Indeed the governments own equality analysis summarised –

“While there are features of the new contract that impact disproportionately on women, of which some we expect to be advantageous and others disadvantageous, we do not consider that this would amount to indirect discrimination as the impacts can be comfortably justified” 

I have never particularly considered myself a feminist but I do expect a fair contract and I don’t expect to be treated any differently to my male counterparts based on gender rather than clinical acumen.

Data derived from the Health and Social Care Annual Workforce Publication 2014 showed that 57% of all doctors in training are female.  However things have not always been this way, in 1985 the year I was born, women made up only 16% of practicing doctors in the US. Some junior doctors are concerned that an unfair contract would send us backwards in terms of women in Medicine.  Already prior to this new proposed contract, pay inequalities exist in medicine.  A study published this week in the BMJ concluded that women doctors in the US earn less than their male counterparts even after adjusting for hours of work and specialty.

So what about the role of women in Sports Medicine? Read more of this post

CJSM Podcast 14 — Turf vs. Grass & Girls Soccer

jsm-podcast-bg-1Our newest podcast release profiles a study published in our May 2016 CJSM: Shoe and Field Surface Risk Factors for Acute Lower Extremity Injuries Among Female Youth Soccer Players. Our guest on the podcast is the lead author of the study, John O’Kane M.D., the Head Team Physician for the University of Washington and the Bob and Sally Behnke Endowed Professor for the Health of the Student Athlete.

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Dr. John O’Kane (L), soccer-playing daughter Katie (C), and wife Betsy (R), on grass….in Phoenix AZ

We hope you enjoy the conversation with Dr. O’Kane as much as we did.  We gained insight into the findings presented in the paper and had a fruitful discussion on some of the nuances of the endless debate:  turf vs. grass, which is the preferred surface on which to play soccer? Along the way we chatted about the recent controversies in the 2016 Women’s Soccer World Cup, as well as the impact on pubertal development as an intrinsic risk factor for injury in sport….and more!

Listen in — you can find the podcast on iTunes or on our home page.  As ever, let us know what you think — in the comment section below, or on Twitter @cjsmonline

 

 

 

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