Understanding Female Athlete’s experiences of the menstrual cycle – most cited article 2021/22
So how do female athletes manage their menstrual cycle related symptoms and period when training for the Olympics?
Over the last 4 years there has been more attention and notice paid to the menstrual cycle in sport, due to athletes speaking out in the media and also more research specifically in females being completed.
One piece of research I have completed with female athletes explored their experiences of the menstrual cycle in relation to training and performance, along with understanding openness of conversations with their coaches.
What did this involve?
Individual interviews were conducted with 17 elite female athletes from multiple sports
What did we learn?
Athletes’ experiencing a natural menstrual cycle reported physical symptoms alongside mood disturbances and reduced motivation to train. The decision to actively control the menstrual cycle was often triggered by a desire to reduce the effect on competition, this was to lessen anxieties about making required weight or reduce distraction to manage during competition.
Athletes indicated an openness to talk about the menstrual cycle to other females, however, there was variation in the comfort athletes experienced regarding talking to male coaches.
“time before my period impacts training and performance”
A need to educate elite athletes and coaches on the menstrual cycle, considering it in the same light as other physiological functions in sport to improve health, well-being, and performance.
“Oh no, I wouldn’t say anything… I just don’t want to because it’s awkward”
Provide support and education on how to construct positive conversations, equipping individuals with the correct terminology, and confidence to talk about the menstrual cycle to reduce some reservations identified through improved knowledge and understanding.