Women athletes, 1999

August 1, 1999

Little girls and young women athletes will be teaching us a lot, if we'll just pay attention. We don't really know yet about all the ways athletics will affect the psyches and the physical health of our daughters and our female patients. What those girls and young women should know, however, is that we recognize that their bodies can help them succeed in ways never imagined.

Women athletes, 1999

 

As a high school student I played varsity basketball. It wasn't what you might think, though, and not just because I went to a very small high school that lost more games than it won. It wasn't even basketball, really. There were six girls on each team, and we were only allowed three dribbles, because only two members of a team were allowed to cross the mid-court line. Most girls--even girls who were athletes--were not thought fit enough to run up and down the whole court for the entire game. That was in the early 1960's. Now here it is, 1999, and the largest crowd in the history of women's sports spent the afternoon of July 10 in the stands while over 40 million more watched on TV as the US women's soccer team ran up and down the field in Pasadena, California, in the summer sun and eventually beat China in the Women's World Cup final game. No one in the press has yet mentioned that some of those girl babies some Chinese don't seem to want may have grown up to challenge the United States more successfully than their government has been able to do with trade negotiations.

It isn't just a few elite professional women athletes who are changing our expectations about what girls and women can do. If you have any doubt about that, you should spend an hour in my dentist's chair. While I'm speechless with my mouth pried open, he goes on and on, depending on the season, about his two daughters' exploits in soccer and lacrosse. He's obviously in awe of their stamina, their prowess, and their competitiveness.

So, readers, pay attention to information like that contained in last month's cover story, "Caring for the young dancer (gymnast, figure skater)" by Jordan Metzl, MD, and when you read next month's "Contagious diseases in athletes" by Drs. Dilip Patel and Ralph Gordon, don't envision only the male competitor.

Little girls and young women athletes will be teaching us a lot, if we'll just pay attention. We don't really know yet about all the ways athletics will affect the psyches and the physical health of our daughters and our female patients. What those girls and young women should know, however, is that we recognize that their bodies can help them succeed in ways never imagined by Barbie's creators or by my basketball coach.

Julia A. McMillan, MD, Editor-in-chief of Contemporary Pediatrics, is Vice Chair, Pediatric Education, and Director, Residency Training,
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore.



Julia McMillan. Women athletes, 1999.

Contemporary Pediatrics

1999;8:9.