Female Athletes and the Menstrual Cycle

Menstruation and female athletes
on Mon 9 Aug

 

The recent Tokyo Olympics almost saw gender parity with 49% of competing athletes being women.

 

Now all athletes experience peaks and troughs in their career,  but female contestants may see highs and lows happening more regularly with hormonal changes driven by their menstrual cycle.

 

Most women can identify with having one or more of the following physical and psychological symptoms during menstruation:

 

  • Cramping
  • Pain in the abdomen or back
  • Headaches or migraine
  • Bloating
  • Tenderness in the breast
  • Flooding
  • Reduced energy levels
  • Fatigue
  • Reduced motivation
  • Anxiety and distraction
  • Fluctuating emotions

 

And obviously these will not be helpful to the training or performance of female athletes. However recent research also reveals a higher risk of injury at certain times of the cycle.

 

Research into menstruation and athletic performance

The menstrual cycle is among the least studied aspects of human biology, but recent research is leading the way into studying menstrual cycle dysfunctions in female athletes.

 

In 2020 the Universities of Sunderland and the West of Scotland investigate the effect of periods on the performance and training of 15 female international rugby players.

 

Two-thirds of those questioned believed that their menstrual symptoms negatively affected training,  and half believed it affected their performance.

 

Almost all treated their symptoms with over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Unsurprisingly many women athletes also use birth control pills to control or pause their periods.

 

80% of those surveyed said that they had sought advice from medical professionals, but many felt very uncomfortable about discussing what still feels like a taboo subject for some women.

 

Following the research,  several recommendations were made to the governing body these included developing awareness and openness about the menstrual cycle within a sports environment as well as the practical avoidance of wearing light coloured short wherever possible and the provision of sanitary products at training and competition venues.

 

If you would like to read more about this piece of research the link is here 

 

In 2021 a study looked into how menstrual cycle and length influenced the incidence of injury in English International footballers. This was carried out by The School of Exercise and Sport at Lincoln University; the Football Association and the Department of Sport and Exercise in Nottingham Trent University

 

Over a four-year period, injuries were recorded and matched against self-reported information on the menstrual cycle. The resulting data suggests that fluctuation is oestrogen and progesterone at this time can affect muscles, tendons and ligaments.

 

 

In fact, 88% of muscle and tendon injuries seem to occur in the days before periods start when the brain sends signals to the ovaries to prepare an egg that will be released.

 

If you would like to read more about this study the link is here

 

 Monitoring menstruation

Some athletes use apps monitor their periods to ensure they are able to train and compete at optimum times in their cycle and Chelsea FC Women became the first club in the world to tailor training to schedule with their player’s cycles

 

However, these apps cannot measure hormones – a problem recently addressed by the Hormonix system which was developed in conjunction with the English Institute of Sport (EIS). This uses saliva testing and has been used in research with Manchester City Women.

 

The EIS also launched a pilot study involving 15 top athletes from 8 sports disciplines from rowing to gymnastics. It is hoped that there will shortly be a rollout of regular saliva testing to help female athletes better manage their training and performance.

 

I hope you found this helpful 

 

We make every effort to ensure that all health advice on this website is accurate and up to date. However it is for information purposes and should not replace a visit to your doctor or health care professional. As the advice is general in nature rather than specific to individuals we cannot accept any liability for actions arising from its use nor can we be held responsible for the content of any pages referenced by an external link.

 

Tags

About Stephanie Acne AIDS alcohol units and effects allergies Andropause angina anorexia Anti Ageing Anxiety arrhythmia arthritis asthma atrial fibrillation back pain basic metabolic rate BHRT bio-identical hormones Biog Bloating blood pressure BMR bone density Book review bowel cancer brain fog brain tumour Bronchitis bulimia Bursitis calcium Cancer cancer signs and symptoms carpal tunnel syndromw cervical cancer Cervical smear Charles Bonnet Syndrome check your pulse cholesterol chronic fatigue syndrome coeliac disease contraception COPD coronary thrombosis coronavirus covid-19 Deep vein thrombosis Delaying menopause Dementia Depression dermatitis Diabetes Digestive problems Donor advice DVT dyspareunia Ear infections Early menopause eating disorders eczema endometriosis exercise fertility fibroids fitness gallstones Gardisil Genetic testing hair loss Health Awareness Day Health Awareness Month Health Awareness week health warning healthy eating heart attack heart attacks Heart Disease Helpful supplements Hepatitis High blood pressure HIV Hormone Replacement Therapy hormones hot flushes HPV HRT HRT & breast cancer HRT in the news HRT risks Hypertension IBS immune system itching Itchy Skin joint pain kidney function Leukaemia libido lichen sclerosus lifestyle liver Liver Disease Lung cancer Lupus LUTS Macular Degeneration Magnesium# Male Menopause Managing Anxiety Managing Stress ME/CFS Men's health Meningitis Menoapuse advice for partners menopause menopause and dental health Menopause Specialist menopause symptoms Menopause Weight Gain menpause Menstrual Cycle Menstruation Menstruation and Athletes mental health Mental health support metabolism microbiome Migraine Motivation technique mouth cancer night sweats Norovirus oestrogen osteoarthritis Osteoporosis Paget's disease painful sex palpitations Pancreatic Cancer Parkinson's Parkinsons pelvic pain Perimenopause Pneumonia POI Premature Ovarian Insufficiency Probiotics Prolapse prostate prostate cancer Pruritis Psoriasis Psychosexual medicine reflux rheumatoid arthritis sarcoma self harming sex sex and disability sexual health skin cancer Skin health sleep Statins Staying positive STI's stroke Takayasu Arteritis talks and presentations TB testosterone Tinnitus trying to lose weight tuberculosis Type 2 Diabetes underactive thyroid Urinary Infections Using a private GP UTI's vaginal dryness Vascular awareness month vegan diets Vitamin D Vulval itching Winter Vomiting Bug World Health Day

Email enquiry form

How To Find Us

Suite 2, 35a Welbeck Street, London, W1G 8EZ

Newsletter Signup

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

GDPR

We use MailChimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to MailChimp for processing. Learn more about MailChimp's privacy practices here.