Dr. Meghan Bishop: The Biology of Performance - 05/20/2020


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Dr. Meghan Bishop - The Biology of Performance

What is it like running in NYC right now during the pandemic? Why is there a performance gap between male and female athletes? How do running injuries differ between men and women? What are some of the issues facing intersex athletes?

Dr. Meghan Bishop is an orthopaedic surgeon specializing in sports-related injuries of the knee, shoulder, and elbow at the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in NYC and Westchester, NY. She graduated at the top of her class at George Washington University Medical School, and completed her residency in Orthopaedic Surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia, PA. She also completed a fellowship in Sports Medicine and Shoulder Surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, NY. During her fellowship, Dr. Bishop served as one of the team physicians for the New York Knicks and Iona College.

Dr. Bishop has served as head orthopaedic medical director of the 2019 Philadelphia Marathon as well as volunteer physician at the 2019 USATF outdoor track and field championship meet. She is a former Division I collegiate track and field athlete at the College of William and Mary, and qualified for the 2020 US Olympic Marathon Trials in February, placing 50th and scoring a PR.

As an avid marathon runner, Dr. Bishop has a special interest in the sports-related injuries of runners and female athletes. In this episode, Coach Claire and Dr. Bishop talk about an article she recently coauthored that was published in The Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery on the biology of sex and sport. This article discusses the effects that sex and biology have on performance, why there’s a gap between male and female performance, if that gap can be narrowed or closed, and advantages of female athletes.

Questions Dr. Bishop is asked:

3:02 You are an orthopedic surgeon in NYC. How are things in the city right now? How is running?

4:18 What does an orthopedic surgeon do and how does that relate to running?

6:27 What’s the difference between a general sports-medicine doctor, what you do, and a physical therapist?

8:07 Can you talk a little bit about training at such a high level when you clearly also have a pretty high-level job as well?

9:46 When people ask, “Which specialist should I go to?” the first question should be, “Are you a runner?” Can you talk a little bit about the differences between men and women in performance?

12:00 Why do women do well in long distance events?

13:19 If you took a man who is the exact same size as a woman, the same height, the same weight, they still would perform differently. Is that what you’re saying?

13:51 So it’s not just testosterone. If it’s not just testosterone, it’s more complicated than that. Is that correct?

15:39 Do we know why women are more susceptible to those types of injuries?

16:15 You mentioned the shoulder injuries, that they’re more likely in women because you said their ligaments are stretchier. Can you explain that a little bit?

16:59 I’ve definitely seen some studies where you look at the marathon and women seem to slow less in the marathon than men. Is that due to the fatigue resistance or we’re just better strategists?

19:36 On the one hand you want everybody to be able to compete no matter who they are and what their genetic makeup is, but on the other hand, if you’re a female runner and competing against someone who is genetically more male, that gets very challenging if males are 10% faster, better, stronger than us, it’s tough on all sides. I don’t think there is an easy answer for this one.

20:55 It seems like forcing her to take any kind of drugs, that just doesn’t feel right either, so hopefully it’s going to evolve as we go forward as more intersex athletes rise to the high level, I would assume?

21:35 What things could we as women work on to close that gap? Do you think that it’s a possibility that the 10% could shrink in the future, or is this just, this is our biology, this is what we’re stuck with?

22:27 World records seem to be dropping all the time, so you kind of hope the gap would drop too, but maybe not.

22:47 You wore the Nike shoes for the trials, right? How did they work out for you?

23:25 What I’m hearing a lot is that recovery is so much better because they are so cushioned, you don’t pound your legs quite as much and you’re able to walk normally a little quicker after the marathon. Did you find that as well?

24:15 What advice would you give yourself back when you started running?

25:15 What are your favorite strength training exercises for runners?

25:42 What is the best gift running has given you?

26:50 Are you getting in some socially distant running?

27:09 How can people connect with you?

28:00 How do telehealth visits work?

Quotes by Dr. Bishop:

“Taking care of a runner really is a multidisciplinary thing. It’s a big group involved with it.”

“Females, I think, in general, are just really tough, but that’s not the biological reason.”

“If you look at the trials this year, over 500 women qualified versus 260 men. I don’t know if that has anything to do with differences in biology, but it’s definitely a big factor that you can see there.”

“Recently, we’ve done a lot more sex-specific reporting and we’ve learned that females and males get injured differently too.”

“That’s one of the reasons I wanted to look into writing the paper recently, because I wanted to look at why performance was different between males and females, and you can see there’s a number of reasons why males have this consistent 10% performance gap over females.”

“Definitely for the fairness of sport, I think that we need to have a fair solution really for everyone, and especially for the female athletes that just don’t have that advantage over other people.”

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Mentioned in this podcast:

Run To The Top Winners Circle Facebook Community

RunnersConnect Facebook page


The Biology of Sex and Sport

Rothman Orthopaedics, Meghan E. Bishop MD

Manhattan - Gramercy Office

Manhattan - Murray Hill Office

Tarrytown, NY Office

Westchester/Harrison Office


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