The debate over competition of transgender individuals in sports with persons of their opposite, biological “assigned” sex at birth has been gaining traction over the past few years, but particularly since President Biden’s executive order allowing transgender individuals to play on sports teams of their choosing.
While the notion of substantial physical differences between biological men and biological women is obvious to most, a deep physiological analysis can further help us to better understand the differences between the sexes and, therefore, how forcing the two sexes to physically compete can be harmful, particularly to women.
It is a scientific fact that humans, like all other mammals, have one male and one female parent. The result of mammalian mating produces offspring that are either male or female. There are no other sexes or genders.
There is also no denying the fact that males and females have unchangeable and distinct physical and psychological characteristics.
One such distinction is the structure of their skeletal systems. While it is commonly known that women generally have larger pelvic regions for birthing and men generally have more pronounced shapes in the jawline of the skull, the differences go deeper than that.
Sexual differences in bone structure emerge during adolescence. The development of one’s skeletal system is influenced primarily by the increase of hormones and, to a lesser extent, by nutritional intake. For males, the increase of testosterone and IGF-1 (insulin growth factor) causes rapid muscle mass and strength growth. For women, their increase in estrogen provides bone minerals and higher increase in bone mass in relation to muscle mass.
Sexual differences only become more apparent after puberty as periosteal growth, which enlarges the diameter of bones, slows for females but drastically increases for males. And although males generally reach puberty two years later than females, they usually have longer legs, and ultimately longer bodies because their epiphyseal fusion occurs later which causes their peak growth velocity to continue longer than that of females. This phenomenon is displayed by the development of their growth plates located near the longitudinal ends of each bone.
Males and females have the same Bone Mineral Density (BMD) per capita, but because males generally have larger skulls and wider vertebrae due to their higher bone mass, males are less likely to experience bone stress and osteoporotic fractures (fractures incurred from bumps and falls on more fragile bones). Even if the bones of the two sexes have the same nutritional value, because of the sheer size of male bones, they are less likely to be injured from experiencing the same impact.
This is backed up by a study published in the National Library of Medicine, which showed that female cadets attending the US Military Academy had 2.5 times the number of injuries and 3.9 times more hospitalizations reported than that of their male counterparts.
Sex is found to be the highest risk factor regarding stress fractures. A study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health further states “A number of military studies of Army basic training show that women performing the same prescribed physical activities as men incur stress fractures at incidences 2-10 times higher than those for men.”
Some civilian studies on the injuries of athletes can be misleading, since they do not account for men and women practicing together or competing against one another. However, there is overwhelming evidence that, when men and women partake in strenuous exercise at the same intensity levels, females are much more susceptible to incur injuries.
This is not to say there are not some exceptionally athletic women who could outperform most men. It simply shows that men’s bodies are capable of sustaining greater physical damage than women’s bodies.
Moving on, perhaps the most significant contrast of males and females is in their overall strength levels.
A study in the Journal of Applied Physiology shows that men have approximately 40% greater upper body strength and 33% greater lower body strength than women on average. Overall, women have somewhere between 37-68% the muscle strength of men.
Even when taken to the extremes, men’s strength far surpasses women’s. The gross average bench press power lifting record for women is 228 pounds less than it is for men. Similarly for squatting, the women’s record is 292 pounds less than the men’s.
These disparities are not just due to bone size and testosterone levels. There are also distinct biomechanical differences between the sexes.
One of these reasons is the difference in “Q Angles” of men and women. The Q Angle is the angle between the quadriceps muscles and the patella tendon of the knee. It was often thought that women have larger Q angles than men because of their wider pelvises, but many studies have shown that this is not the case. Instead, one study floats the notion that it is due to women’s inward turning of their thigh bones otherwise known as “femoral anteversion.” Because of this, on average, women have a Q Angle of 18 degrees compared to 14 degrees for men.
According to a recent study by the Turkish Journal of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, “A higher Q Angle is associated with decreased isokinetic knee strength, power output, and torque angles.” Not only does this affect lifting capacities, but also tends to lead to joint disorders and sports injuries, with two of the most common injuries being ACL tears and Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome (Runner’s Knee).
The first — ACL tears — are a result of smaller femoral notch dimensions and a less stable core (abdominal and hip stability). The second — Runner’s Knee — is due to women’s leg alignment from their Q Angle, looser joints, and weaker hip muscles.
When it comes to running in general, men generally have a physical advantage.
Male sprinters are recorded to have 47% greater hip extension strength and 56% greater knee extension strength than female sprinters. Researchers from Sports Medicine assert the gap between men and women speeds is “biological in nature” and is “unlikely to narrow naturally.”
This gap becomes apparent even when comparing elite female athletes to non-elite male athletes. According to research from Duke University, “Just in the single year 2017, Olympic, World, and U.S. Champion Tori Bowie’s 100 meters lifetime best of 10.78 was beaten 15,000 times by men and boys.”
But it is not just distance running where men track better times. Men also record faster reactions for both auditory and visual stimuli. Researchers from India’s Department of Physiology show men have stronger motor responses and can contract muscles quicker than women.
The final, critical discrepancy between the sexes is spatial ability which can be defined as: the ability to perceive, visualize, and manipulate three-dimensional objects in some way. Researchers from the Griffith University of Australia argue that “Gender gaps in spatial ability are the largest of all gender differences in cognitive abilities.”
As their study claims, most researchers would conclude that this is a result of biological and social forces. The leading hypothesis is that males’ spatial skills come from their traditional “hunter” role where strong navigational and vision skills were necessary. However, a University of Chicago study challenges this idea, “demonstrating that a trait now increases fitness does not constitute evidence that the trait is an adaption because the trait could have evolved for other reason.”
While the source of this ability is not crucial, the effect that it has on spatial ability such as hand-eye coordination is important. In virtually every study conducted on the matter, males are found to have significantly better hand-eye coordination than females.
Considering all the evidence and data provided by these studies and research, why should biological males who are generally bigger, stronger, faster, possess better hand-eye coordinated, are more spatially aware, and more are likely to injure women if they collide with them compete physically against women?
To argue that biological females can fairly compete with biological males is an act of unscientific lunacy.
Even the NCAA seems to be aware of these discrepancies, having a policy preventing transgender female athletes from competing in sports of their born sex without having first gone through one year of hormone treatment. While this is not an adequate policy to protect women, it does at least seem to acknowledge the existence of physical differences between the sexes.
According to a recent study by the British Journal of Sports Medicine, transgender female athletes perform at higher levels than their biological female counterparts and “more than 12 months of testosterone suppression may be needed to ensure that transgender women do not have an unfair competitive advantage when participating in elite level athletic competition.”
However, these undeniable physical differences do not speak to the individual capabilities of women or of their areas of ability that surpasses that of their male counterparts. Women notably outperform males in object memory location, verbal fluency, and recognition of facial emotional expressions. Other commonly accepted examples include better color shade recognition, as well as more acute senses of taste and smell.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.