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New international virtual lab aspires to create gender equity in sport and exercise

June 27, 2024 — 

A new virtual lab developed by researchers at the University of Manitoba and the University of Nottingham aims to generate new solutions for gender equity in sport and physical activity.

The EDGE Lab – Environments Designed for Gender Equity in Sport & Physical Activity Lab – will explore gendered environments in elite sport, inequities in everyday exercise environments, and inclusive youth sport and physical activity.

Dr. Joanne Parsons, associate professor in the College of Rehabilitation Sciences at the Rady Faculty of Health Sciences and Dr. Stephanie Coen, associate professor in the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham, have partnered in the project with a goal to reduce disparities in health and well-being.

EDGE Lab reimagines equitable and inclusive sport and physical activity using what is called a ‘gendered environmental approach’—a concept coined by Parsons and Coen in their landmark paper in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2021.

This approach takes into account how gendered social factors contribute to inequities in sports injury risk, increasing potential for improving girls’ and women’s sport and physical activity participation, enhancing performance, and reducing injuries.

“EDGE Lab will serve as a virtual locale to support our focus on gendered environments and how they affect athletes’ health and performance. We anticipate the virtual lab will facilitate the growth of our research program through increased visibility and expanded opportunities for developing partnerships,” said Parsons.

One example is a project called More Than Medals, developed in collaboration with the UK Sports Institute, which uses an online multimedia exhibition combining poetry, audio narration and original artwork to share stories of gendered environmental challenges from retired elite female athletes.

“With our international network of community, sport and academic collaborators, EDGE Lab is a hub for developing new and impactful ways to positively improve the landscape of girls’ and women’s sport and physical activity,” said Coen.

Funding for the lab was made possible by two Inclusive Research Excellence Prizes the team was awarded last year from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research’s Institute of Musculoskeletal Health and Arthritis.

“The global attention Dr. Parsons and Dr. Coen have garnered for their groundbreaking work is much deserved. The opening of their new virtual lab is a crucial step in addressing the deeply entrenched, pervasive and completely unacceptable gender inequity in sport and injury risk, and opens the way to a more enlightened future for everyone engaging in physical activity,” said Dr. Mark Garrett, physical therapy department head at UM.

“It’s very exciting to see the EDGE Lab develop as a home for Dr. Coen and Dr. Parsons’ important work. The real world impact their work is already having, from women’s professional football to Olympic athletes, can only be furthered by this new virtual home,” added professor Matthew Jones, head of the School of Geography at the University of Nottingham.

For more information on EDGE Lab, visit

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