Jennifer Carter, a University of Cincinnati doctoral student, said she began her research observing a team in the Women's Football Alliance, and later became a defensive back.
The WFA is considered a professional football league, though most players were not paid, others received just $1 per game, and the athletes paid for their uniforms, equipment, field rentals and travel expenses, Carter said.
"Everything from helmets and shoulder pads to shoes and pants pose issues for women when it comes to finding the right fit and gear that doesn't fit right won't properly protect players," Carter said in a statement.
In addition, the league plays during the spring when sporting goods stores are in the off-season for football.
Weightlifting, cardio-conditioning and football-related drills were completed without coach or trainer supervision and although players had access to prime training equipment, they had little knowledge or guidance on how to properly use the equipment, increasing their risk of injury and decreasing workout effectiveness, Carter said.
Carter also said societal beliefs about women's bodies affect the way they deal with pain and injuries. "While visible injuries on the field are dealt with similarly through a culture of sacrifice, off the field, women often face stigma due to visible bruising, cuts, scrapes and other abrasions," Carter added.
The findings were presented at the 107th annual meeting of the American Sociological Association.