June 23rd marks the 40th anniversary of Title IX, one of the most significant statutes ever signed into law for women. I am one of millions of women who have personally benefitted from Title IX. The opportunities and experiences that I have had as a result of being a high school and collegiate basketball player have helped me get to where I am today. The lessons I learned from the commitment of being a basketball player have stayed with me through my life, and the friendships I developed through athletics are some of my closest relationships. I see these same aspects now in my female patients, from high school athletes to the professional women’s basketball players I care for on the New York Liberty. They are all an inspiration to me and are the reasons I love my career choice so much.
Interestingly, Title IX, signed in 1972, does not mention athletics directly. It states that 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 education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. It was first drafted as a way to expand opportunities in higher education and it certainly has:
- Overall, women earn the majority of degrees now.
- Women getting law degrees have gone from 7% to 47% from 1972 to 2010.
- Women getting medical degrees have gone from 9% to 48%.
The influence, however, on women in athletics has perhaps been the most impressive:
- Girls participating in high school athletics have increased from under 300,000 (1 in 27) in 1972 to over 3 million (1 in 2.5) last year.
- College athletic participation has increased 400%.
The social benefits of sports participation for girls and women are also profound:
- They get better grades.
- They are more likely to graduate.
- They have better self-esteem.
- They have less unplanned pregnancies.
- They are less likely to use drugs, be obese, be depressed, and commit suicide.
- They also reap the many other medical benefits of regular activity.
Thanks to Title IX, millions of women can now realize their dreams. So to those who made Title IX a reality, and to all the early female athlete pioneers who led the way for today’s women, thank you for making my life and the lives of millions of other women so meaningful.
The first of its kind in the United States, the Women’s Sports Medicine Center at HSS is a nationally recognized health resource for active women of all ages and abilities, from professional athletes to eager novices.