NewsSportMenstrual Tracking Is An Important Aspect Of Sportby Alicia Vrajlal

Getty Images With strict training schedules, diets and goals to kick, playing a competitive sport is tough enough. So imagine getting your period on top it all. Despite it being a normal part of life, we rarely hear about how women in sport deal with menstruation.As the FIFA Women’s World Cup kicks off in Australia and New Zealand, women from 32 national soccer teams will be out on the field over the course of a month. There isn’t a greater time to open up the conversation, and Australia’s national team, the Matildas hasn’t shied away.Speaking to The Sydney Morning Herald, the team’s physician, Dr Brandi Cole says the players’ menstruation is monitored to help give them an idea of how their cycles are tracking. We’ve often heard of the idea that our periods sync with people we spend a lot of time with, and Dr Cole says that often happens to be the case for the Matildas players during training season.AdvertisementADVERTISEMENT”The girls all seem to get in sync with each other in terms of when their cycle is as soon as they come into camp,” Dr Cole told the publication.”It is absolutely crazy. One will come to me for some meds for premenstrual pain and then the next minute half the team’s coming to me. It’s a known phenomenon.”Dr Cole said that while it’s difficult to scientifically explain how this syncing occurs, she insisted that “the girls swear by it and I have definitely seen that”.She noted that when monitoring the players out of camp, they’re often out of sync. However, by the time they’re all together for training, they’re back in sync. Some players have told her they’ve had their periods earlier or later than expected when they come to an international team camp.Dr Cole emphasised this is one of the benefits of menstrual cycle monitoring, as it’s allowed the players to “learn about themselves, which empowers our female athletes to get the best out of their bodies”.Menstrual monitoring has become more common in women’s sport in recent years, in order to help athletes maximise their performance when their bodies are feeling up to it.In 2019, the United States team made headlines at the Women’s World Cup in France, when team members came together for a selfie and held up four fingers. The four fingers signified that the players were in the fourth phase of their menstrual cycle, a fact they knew thanks to a new menstrual monitoring program.AdvertisementADVERTISEMENT

“We get periods. Whatever. Might as well [do] everything you can about it to maximise performance,” the team’s co-captain Megan Rapinoe later tweeted.

In order for their menstruation to be monitored, US team players filled out surveys about their periods, detailing when they started, how long they lasted, symptoms and whether the symptoms impacted their performance. This data was shared with Dr Georgie Bruinvels, a senior sports scientist and research scientist at Orreco, which provides bio-analytics for athletes. Bruinvels sent back a profile of each player, which helped the team to identify the menstruation cycles for each player throughout the almost 50 days they were all together in France for the World Cup.”We could see what [menstrual cycle] phase a player was in and what some of their symptoms were,” Dawn Scott, high-performance coach for The US Women’s National Team (USWNT) told Good Morning America in 2019.”I would just text or say to a player, ‘Hey you’re in phase three and we know you get disrupted sleep, so make sure you do x, y and z. We could dial in on players with the most symptoms.”Bruinvels and Orreco are consulting a number of national teams during the FIFA Women’s World Cup this year, but others aren’t necessarily taking the approach of learning more and monitoring players’ periods.”I do know one [national] team whose ethos is just to put all of their athletes on a pill that delays menstruation, during the World Cup, so they don’t need to worry about periods,” Bruinvels claimed in an interview with The Guardian.AdvertisementADVERTISEMENTWhile some progress is being made, there’s still a way to go. According to people like Bruinvels, menstruation monitoring can help teams understand how players can do their best at training, whether it’s through modifying sleep, nutrition, rehab and recovery.More widely, the need for more conversation is crucial and as obvious as ever. It’s time we broke down the taboo surrounding a very normal part of our lives, whether that’s on the football field or not.Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!    

Categories: Trends
Source: HIS Education

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