A rise in anterior cruciate ligament injuries in women's soccer highlights “systemic gender inequality in sports,” a U.K. parliament report said on Tuesday.

The Women and Equalities Committee said there was a “lack of understanding of the health and physiological needs of women and girls across sport.”

In its report “Health barriers for girls and women in sport,” it cited a lack of footwear specifically designed for the needs of female soccer players as an area of concern and called on the government to assemble a task force to address the issue.

“It is symptomatic of gender inequality and sexism in the sports sector that the first football boot in the world designed around female feet came to the market less than four years ago,” committee chair Caroline Nokes said.

ACL injuries to high-profile players has cast a spotlight on that specific issue.

Chelsea and Australia striker Sam Kerr suffered ACL damage in January. Other leading players Alexia Putellas, Beth Mead and Leah Williamson have also sustained ACL injuries.

The committee said the response from the sports science sector had been “disparate and slow” and sports and exercise research was “overwhelmingly” conducted by men.

“We have no doubt that a health issue of similar magnitude affecting elite male footballers would have received a faster, more thorough, and better coordinated response.”

In a report last year, world players' union FIFPRO found increased demands in the women's game had seen a “notable” rise in injuries, including to the ACL.

It said players who competed and traveled more with their club and national teams were more susceptible to lower limb injuries.

The report by the Women and Equalities Committee has highlighted concerns around sportswear and wants brands to be involved in a task force to help improve the physiological health of players.

“While female footballers in the U.K. have enjoyed great success at club and national level, they have done so wearing ill-fitting footwear. Few football boots designed for women are available, and those that do exist are rarely stocked or promoted by the U.K.’s leading high street sports retailers."

The report said the issues go beyond professional level and called for schools to “drastically” improve teaching about girls' physiology, including the menstrual cycle, when it comes to sport and exercise.

Again, kit, was an area of concern.

“There is overwhelming evidence that school PE and sports kit can have a devastating impact on girls’ confidence to participate in and enjoy school sport,” the report said.

Away from soccer, the report said “deplorable” and “harmful” coaching practices that included “public weighing, fat-shaming, and bullying in swimming and wider sport have damaged trust in sports governing bodies."

The U.K. government has two months to respond to the report.

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James Robson is at https://twitter.com/jamesalanrobson

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