Babbage: Sex differences and sport

Some sports use different rules and equipment in the women’s game; some do not. We consider the distinction through the lenses of professional football and rugby. Scientific questions of relative performance lead to those of player safety, and ultimately to philosophy: what do varying opinions about changing women’s game reveal about the purpose of sport in society?

Arve Vorland Pedersen, a sports scientist at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, calculates how football’s pitches and equipment might scale to account for physiological differences. Ross Tucker, a consultant for World Rugby, describes how a trial of a smaller ball might change the game’s mechanics. Lauren Heria, a professional footballer, explains why such meddling is seen as disrespectful by many players. And Emelia Funnell, a researcher at Ida Sports, reveals why ignorance about ACL injuries among women traces back to male cadavers. Host Alok Jha, The Economist’s science and technology editor, is joined by Abby Bertics, our science correspondent (and a former professional volleyball player).

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