Is gender equality in brain damage ‘progress’ for women and sport?

Hardwicke, J. ORCID: 0000-0002-1152-0920, AlHashmi, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-9499-0951, Forbes, D., Paetcher, C. ORCID: 0000-0003-3050-5571, Pocock, M. ORCID: 0000-0001-9660-1879, Taylor, K. ORCID: 0000-0002-9611-3020, Yeagers, D. ORCID: 0009-0001-3017-0524 and Matthews, C. ORCID: 0000-0001-8561-2863, 2024. Is gender equality in brain damage ‘progress’ for women and sport? International Review for the Sociology of Sport. ISSN 1012-6902

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This commentary sits within a context of growing cultural concern over brain damage that occurs in many of the Western world’s most popular, profitable and prized sports. After laying out evidence demonstrating this point, we discuss the increasing inclusion of women within sports which involve regular and routinised brain injuries. We problematise this apparent ‘progress’ with the title of our commentary. In particular, rather than offering some simplified yes/no answer, we argue that in light of the five decades of social scientific scholarship documenting the various harms produced by performance impact sports, working toward gender equality in brain damage is a nonsensical outcome. So, while there is clear evidence from academic gender studies that progress has been made toward tackling issues of exclusion and various forms of discrimination against women and girls in performance sport spaces, there has not been concomitant progress made in tackling the ways bodies and brains are often broken down, damaged and sometimes destroyed during participation in such sports. We do not suggest that consenting adults should be prohibited from enjoying impact sports and our aim with this commentary is not driven by a paternalistic, patriarchal belief which reflects historical notions around sportswomen being the ‘fairer’ sex, nor that responses to sport-acquired brain injury should be sex- or gender-specific. Rather, we conclude by suggesting that the emerging science on sport-acquired brain injuries should serve as an important inflection point to those leaders, organisers, practitioners and scholars working in this area to reconsider how we imagine, promote and structure sport - for everyone.

Item Type: Journal article
Publication Title: International Review for the Sociology of Sport
Creators: Hardwicke, J., AlHashmi, R., Forbes, D., Paetcher, C., Pocock, M., Taylor, K., Yeagers, D. and Matthews, C.
Publisher: SAGE Publications
Date: 4 April 2024
ISSN: 1012-6902
Rights: This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License ( which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page (
Divisions: Schools > School of Science and Technology
Schools > School of Social Sciences
Record created by: Laura Ward
Date Added: 29 Feb 2024 09:30
Last Modified: 21 May 2024 09:39

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