Ross Tucker Profile picture
Sports scientist, PhD Exercise Physiology. One half of The Science of Sport podcast - @sportsscipod Follow & support at
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Jul 14 8 tweets 2 min read
With the UCI decision today, even if imperfect, it means rugby, swimming, track and field and cycling have all recognized the biological implications of sex, and respected women’s rights to fair and safe sport. The IOC, meanwhile, still believe in “no presumption of advantage”, …whereas others have recognized that women’s sport has meaning precisely BECAUSE male biology is known to have performance implications. It’s not presumption so much as reality. That’s the start point for scientific evidence. Thereafter, it follows that unless the male biology
May 27 15 tweets 9 min read
@CAMOKAT6 @SVPhillimore Yes, largely, it's the same argument that we've heard for the last few years, once it became clear that there are advantages. It involves a lot of evasive wordplay - overwhelming adv vs meaningful, conflating advantage types, using under-representation to dismiss advantage. @CAMOKAT6 @SVPhillimore Just to take one - left-handers in fencing. The scale of this advantage is so small compared to male vs female, and you only have to ask one question to reveal this: How many left handed females are competitive against right-handed males? Zero. The gap created by LH vs RH is tiny
May 26 5 tweets 2 min read
Good to see from British Cycling. Yes, it follows the evidence, and yes, it respects women’s rights to fairness, and their voice. But it still takes a degree of conviction to go against the international governing body (however misguided that policy may be). The path that leads to this “departure” is interesting. Scientific evidence for retained advantage (and refuting its removal) was there all along, for all parties to recognize. What @BritishCycling had was vocal women who refused to be ignored. Plus a case that demonstrated the
Apr 19 7 tweets 2 min read
This has been deleted, but I'd like to thank @peterjrainford for opening this door to some important points in this debate. First of all, this athlete was *RIGHTLY* disqualified because of the advantage gained by a car. Nobody who argues for fairness in sport would disagree...1/ Image Second, this athlete finished third, they didn't win. But we know that they still gained an advantage and were correctly disqualified. This should be noted by those who frequently suggest that the (perceived) scarcity of TW who win is evidence that the lack advantages.
Apr 18 6 tweets 2 min read
Correct final outcome is reached, but it is a convoluted, unnecessary process based on a misunderstanding of performance advantage & fairness. No matter how tall, strong or powerful, the advantage exists because the person is crossing a category boundary:… What they are doing is akin to assessing a heavyweight boxer who wants to fight middleweights, and saying "OK, let's see how strong and powerful you are, then we can make an exemption". That 'exemption', if applied, would permit relatively inferior athletes to fight superior ones
Mar 3 4 tweets 1 min read
I think this is great. How it should be. If you emphasize results, you drive selection based on current performance. And selection means omission. Both based on poor and misleading criteria. So the health & quality of the eventual late teen and adult sport system is compromised What sports have to do is a find a balance between creating a pathway that filters out players so that resources can be maximized, and keeping as many players “viable” for as long as possible. At 8, rewarding performance is almost pointless because it’s almost entirely confounded
Nov 16, 2022 15 tweets 5 min read
Let's talk about foul play, red cards and head injuries in #Rugby Here's a thread on head injury risks and the 'levers of control' to try to reduce it, with some background and some data... 1/ Back in 2017, when we first analysed risk factors for head injury, it was clear that higher tackles increased risk. This is pretty obvious - the only way a ball carrier can be injured is from a high tackle, and we also found head-to-head contact was most dangerous for TACKLERS
Jul 29, 2022 13 tweets 3 min read
This thread typifies two broad approaches to this issue. On one side are people whose paradigm is "There's no evidence (according to them), so there's no reason to prevent males from entering women's rugby". On the other is a group who say "Male physiology is very different from ...female physiology because of androgens and male development, so we need to prevent males in women's rugby until the evidence strongly suggests it is fair and safe". The latter group is not without evidence, mind. We know the initial typical M vs F differences, and we know the
Jul 15, 2022 8 tweets 4 min read
Another example is cars vs motorbikes, which is more dangerous? If you only count road accidents/deaths, you'd conclude that cars are more dangerous. And you'd be wrong, because you've failed to account for 'exposure'. Now let's think rugby.... If you watch rugby, you will see many more head-hip proximity tackles than you see head-head proximity tackles. Hips are "selfies or cars", & heads are "sharks or motorbikes". We can quantify this, and it's 2.6 head-hip tackles (18%) for every 1 head-head tackle (7% of tackles).
Jul 15, 2022 29 tweets 10 min read
Rugby and HIA risk (thread):
Ahead of a big rugby weekend, thought I'd offer a little insight into when the risk of head injuries is highest, and how World Rugby has tried to nudge behaviour towards safety (the Red and Yellow cards you see, that is). So here's a little tutorial! First, and sorry for the wordy slide, but we need to understand how risk reduction works in the global sense. To simplify, you're either eliminating, substituting, or modifying what is risky. To do this, you have to first understand a spectrum of risk. That is, "what is risky?"
Jun 28, 2022 12 tweets 4 min read
Upon further reading, the following strikes me. Based on the science (without quotation marks), in sport, where SEX DOES matter, there *IS* a choice to be made, the reality that fairness & safety for women can’t co-exist when male advantage is retained...… Is that choice easy? No. So the headline is immediately misleading. The choices create consequences. But they’re consequences in a colliding rights issue, so if you only ever consider them from one POV, you can’t do justice to the difficulty of those choices. That’s THE problem
Jun 28, 2022 4 tweets 2 min read
Jon’s thread below is good, and I agree. My first impression of this article was a bit simpler. I thought the quotation marks around “fairness” and “the science” were doing a comically large amount of work, but also quite revealing of the line of reasoning about to follow! Then comes the second part, where I assume based on a lack of quotation marks, that we are now talking about real science. This is the sociological equivalent of “but Michael Phelps’ arms”, with a seasoning of blackmail. I’d answer the Qs at the end with: “please do & irrelevant”
Jun 22, 2022 31 tweets 15 min read
Rugby’s Return to Play protocols after concussion - yesterday, @WorldRugby announced some changes to the management of players after concussion. You can read it here:… And here’s a thread on some of the process & science behind it, which I was involved in @WorldRugby To begin with, let’s look at what happened in the past. First, there used to be a mandatory stand-down period - a concussion meant that player couldn’t play again for an agreed, pre-determined period (it was still open for case by case exceptions, though). Then that was replaced
Jun 22, 2022 13 tweets 3 min read
Let’s think this through (hint, reader - we have thought this through, a lot. It’s been 3 years of grappling with the issue). First problem - physiology. What do you test, and how, in order to approve a TW as not having an advantage? Do you measure performance as the outcome? (1/ If you do it by performance, how do you control for deliberate under-performance? Also, performance is the point of sport, so you’d be using the outcome as the input, so that you’d have a chance at an outcome? That is, well, perfectly circular and defeats the point of sport (2/
May 12, 2022 6 tweets 2 min read
I’m rarely a glass half-full person! But in a weird way, the weakly argued & deeply discriminatory article linked to below represents a kind of positive shift in this debate. It used to be argued that there was no unfairness, that we could include AND be fair at the same time 1/ But now, even the most obvious attempt to include TW at the expense of fairness (& safety - same source physiology) for women has had to abandon this “fairness deception”, and must now begin by accepting the retention of advnantage. It may not feel it, but that IS progress.
May 9, 2022 5 tweets 2 min read
I shouldn’t be amazed at the objections in the letter, but we really are in a bizarre place. The “dance” continues. Used to be “women had no problem with it, so what’s the issue?”. Then women got asked, so now they have to reject HOW they’re asked, including a sidestep of reality Which means having to dictate which words can & can’t be used when asking people’s opinions. This is required to sidestep biological reality (“male”), which then denies ever allowing women to express a direct opinion on the very thing they’re being asked to express an opinion on
Mar 25, 2022 5 tweets 2 min read
Words like “fear”, “prejudice”, “hysteria” and “hateful” imply that concerns about Women’s sport are irrational and illegitimate. You can only make this allegation if you think it’s unreasonable for women to want a space in sport that excludes male advantage. So, is it? Given a) the significant effect of male biology on performance, and b) the performance differences between M & F, it’s clearly not unreasonable for women to want this. In fact, it’s rational and necessary. For them to then to told to accept it for a range of reasons including…
Mar 24, 2022 9 tweets 33 min read
@oldJavaGuy @wutangclown @Hogshead3Au @Martina @PlaceSteph @Phildidgee @CarlBrownisback @sharrond62 @FondOfBeetles @bladderwracked @tgivensdotcom1 @SwimmingWorld @Caitlyn_Jenner @coachblade @runthinkwrite @andyturner110h @BUCSsport I remember that thread, it got a lot of discussion at the time. It’s talking about the DSD cases, which is a very different issue from trans women/men, and doesn’t really offer insights into what is actually typical biological sex. however, if one wants to talk about DSDs, then @oldJavaGuy @wutangclown @Hogshead3Au @Martina @PlaceSteph @Phildidgee @CarlBrownisback @sharrond62 @FondOfBeetles @bladderwracked @tgivensdotcom1 @SwimmingWorld @Caitlyn_Jenner @coachblade @runthinkwrite @andyturner110h @BUCSsport …they too are relatively straightforward - what happens is atypical development of the primary sex characteristics, but the individuals with DSDs are still biologically male or female. The distinction is based on gametes (see anisogamy) and this thread deliberately avoids that
Mar 18, 2022 25 tweets 5 min read
The Lia Thomas result last night is pretty straightforward - confirmation of hypothesis. Based on the physiology, it was predictable that a male athlete with sufficient base level athleticism would suppress T, retain enough physiological advantage & thus performance, to win (1/_ At a recent debate on this issue, Malcolm Gladwell raised that legal concept that “hard cases make bad law”, which can be applied in some instances, but here, works the opposite way around - this is a case that is entirely the result of bad “law”, or policy. A policy that…
Mar 5, 2022 13 tweets 4 min read
This was my primary frustration after today’s debate on the subject at #SSAC22 Hard as I tried to explain that every SELECTION matters, that every place or lane earned by a girl or woman going a male is wrong, what this debate needs is for women to be asked for their voice The reason this came up, by the way, is that @gladwell asked the panel if this issue of trans women participation could be handled differently for elite sport compared to sub-elite and community sport? One answer was that yes, it can and should be, and only when records & money
Mar 4, 2022 4 tweets 2 min read
The next session at @SloanSportsConf is on Title IX, which, according to the programme, is “a law rooted in equal opportunity and prohibiting discrimination based on *sex*”. Perhaps the panel will explain when and how this changed, to the detriment of Women’s sport… The Massachusetts AG just said “this law was significant because it was the first to ban discrimination based on sex”. Everyone KNOWS it’s based on sex. This is why conflating sex with gender is a necessary tactic to discriminate against women. It breaks the law otherwise