Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of Title IX

Soccer players celebrating a goal

“No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving federal financial assistance.” – Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972

These words put into motion a movement to provide equal opportunities for both men and women in sports as well as in the classroom 50 years ago. Christine Boyd, MD, medical director of the Sports Medicine Program and pediatric sports medicine specialist at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, saw the effects in her own experience.

“It gave me the opportunity to compete at the highest level of sports while challenging myself academically,” she says.

Dr. Boyd ran track at Stanford University from 1991-1995. She was team captain her junior and senior years, and held several records. Those records, she says with a smile, have since been broken. It’s something she’s more than happy to see as women continue to pave the way for the future.

“Without sports, I would not be the person I am today,” she says. “I am grateful to the women who came before me and gave me this opportunity.”

Now, she spends her time caring for young athletes, including female athletes, who have a unique set of medical challenges, such as the female athlete triad, which is a syndrome of disordered eating, lack of menstrual periods, and low bone density.

There is still more work to be done as a gender gap persists.

“Although Title IX led to a dramatic increase in sports participation for girls and women, there are still inequities in female athlete care, access, and resources,” says Emily Kraus, MD, pediatric sports medicine specialist at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

According to the Women’s Sports Foundation:

  • In high school, girls miss out on 1 million more sports opportunities than boys
  • Only 60 percent of girls participate in high school sports compared to 75 percent of boys

Sports participation has many benefits. Not only does activity help her physical health, but it’s also important for a child’s mental health. For instance, girls who play sports have higher levels of confidence and self-esteem. Athletes also learn about teamwork and goal-setting, which is important for their futures.

A new national committee to address gaps

For Dr. Kraus, addressing these disparities starts with listening to the athletes. At Stanford, she is the program director of the Female Athlete Science and Translational Research (FASTR) Program, which investigates fundamental physiological and sports performance questions important to improving the health and performance of girls and women.

Just this year, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) formed a Women’s Health Taskforce focusing on the challenges and opportunities that exist for female U.S. athletes. Dr. Kraus was appointed to the new 16-member taskforce, which includes world-renowned clinicians, medical provides, mental health experts, and athletes.

“I am honored to join the task force of leaders dedicated to making positive change for women Olympic and Paralympic athletes,” she says. “What I love about this team is we’re from all different professional backgrounds. Our meetings are dynamic and full of unique, important perspectives with big goals for the present and future state of women in sport.”

She and other experts are focused on identifying the needs, developing resources and solutions, and creating action plans to support the women of Team USA throughout their journeys. Also, as a co-investigator for the Female Athlete Voice Project, Dr. Kraus is identifying gaps in understanding how to best support USOPC-affiliated female athletes to keep them performing at their best.

“Our goal is to develop a research agenda and translational processes that are co-constructed with elite female athletes,” she says.

While there is work being done to level the playing field, part of the solution also starts with us.

“With the increased opportunity comes increased intensity and pressure,” Dr. Boyd explains. “While certain sports have become more dominant, especially in the collegiate landscape, I do think being mindful to support the less popular sports is important to ensure athletes from all sports have opportunities and can benefit from the experience. My hope for my children is that they can experience the best sports have to offer in an environment that is positive, challenging, and supportive.”


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