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Research highlights impact of Periods for elite athletes

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Periods are still a taboo subject and continuing to have a negative impact on females in top-level sport, new Welsh research has found.

Research by the Welsh Institute of Performance Sciences (WIPS) involving numerous athletes found:

  • a taboo around the menstrual cycle and a stigma attached to being open and talking about periods.
  • a significant impact on training and competition performance.
  • The need for greater awareness, amongst coaches and other participants, of the challenges for female athletes.
Athletics track

 

Seventeen female athletes from a range of sports were sampled for the study.

While experiences can vary greatly amongst athletes many sought to minimise training intensity and load, while there was great variation in the comfort athletes felt regarding talking to male coaches.

Race-walker Bethan Davies, who won a bronze medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games said: 

“I think it [menstrual cycle] just needs to be spoken about more, with everyone, so it’s not a taboo subject or people don't feel awkward about talking about it. 

“People should know where they can get advice from, if they need to, or just become a little more aware of the menstrual cycle. I think just having more information out there and more opportunities to chat about it is so important, especially as everyone is an individual and it completely depends on where you are and time in your life and what contraceptives you have as to how it might affect you. Whether that's another athlete, a peer or support team member, I think just avenues need to be opened up more to be able to have conversations about periods. 

“People don't want to say anything, don't want to be judged by it but actually lots of people are in the same boat.”

Led by Swansea University, WIPS is a three-way partnership between Sport Wales, Wales’ leading academic sport scientists and relevant industry partners.  Their research helps Welsh athletes compete on the world stage, as well as looking at benefits for the general population.

WIPS Research Assistant, Dr Natalie Brown said:

“It’s really heightened awareness amongst the Sport Wales Institute staff of the challenges that our female athletes are facing on a regular basis.

“The research is informing content for a new coach education program and I’m in conversation with UK Coaching for use across sport in the home nations.

“And the benefits will not just be for elite sport. This has also been the driver for the We’re on it.Period campaign and menstrual cycle survey that we’re working through with young people and teachers in Wales.”

To read the full report click here.

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