20/04/2024

Tara Hinchliffe was one of the latest Netballers to severely injure her knee. (Photo: Queensland Firebirds)

Studies show that female athletes are more likely to suffer a severe injury while on their periods. So it's time to start educating athletes on this topic.

Studies have shown that during phases of a women’s menstrual cycle, it can become increasingly more likely for female athletes to get injuries, such as tearing their ACL.

The conversation was sparked back in April by former Queensland Firebird Beryl Friday on Twitter, but since then the conversation has seemed to fade out.

Many female athletes in sporting environments aren’t taught of these effects and because of this, there is no altering of programs during those times in a women’s cycle.

The Inner Sanctum spoke to current USQ Jets player Bridey Condren on what these effects are, and why it’s important for there to be more education.

The difference between the research out there and what is implemented, as well as given to athletes during education sessions, is quite big.

“My own basic interest in it is there is actually a fair bit of research on it, and I think one of the earliest articles I’ve read specifically relating to sport and menstrual cycle was the ACL one that was written back in 2000,” Condren said.

“Which is interesting considering we haven’t seen a significant change in elite athletes and elite female sport actually focusing on training around their athletes menstrual cycles.

“Then in terms of what I’ve learnt through my programs and the things I’ve done through sport is actually quite little, we’ve had a very little formal education on it but had plenty on resilience and how to eat well which is fun.”

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In terms of what can be done, it’s all about modification of training programs so that when athletes’ periods starts, the training is lighter.

“With the research I’ve done, and in no means am I a significant authority on it, but I think in the weeks where you’re able to train harder and your body is more prepared for the high level intensity training, you can do those extra sessions and maybe throw another gym session in there.

“In those weeks after your period or during your period when your body is a bit more delicate and more prone to injury, perhaps looking at reducing training load, not significantly that it effects long term fitness or the team, but perhaps looking at a light gym session and skipping out on the third step of conditioning.”

“Looking at training loads around different weeks and stuff could make a big difference.”

Elite sporting programs right across the world have started to track their athletes’ menstrual cycles and tailor programs around them opposed to a general program. One of those elite sporting clubs is the Brisbane Lions AFLW team.

“I think for each athlete, we aren’t all on the same time frame, everybody has different periods and different times of the month and people are effected in different ways. I get tired, I fatigue a lot easier whereas some people might not feel like they’re effected by it.

“I think tracking each individual athlete or menstrual cycle gives you a more tailored approach to that athlete.”

Many studies when it comes to training programs have been done on male athletes, but as many know there are quite big differences between the male and female body.

“Theres a lot of studies in sport that have been based around men and those ways of training aren’t as effective as they could be as if we had this conversation.

“If we included these things [modified sessions] into our training and our daily lives for the people who aren’t athletes, learning to train and exercise during your menstrual cycle rather than doing the same thing over the time, it would be such a bigger benefit and more catered to regimen if we do have this conversation.”

Beyond the tailored programs, it’s important to start having these conversations at grass roots levels.

“Local sport and grass roots, [we need to] start normalising these conversations at that level. Those girls moving into rep and being able to talk to them and be like ‘this is what’s going to happen’, and not doing things like glorify losing periods because you’re training hard.

“Education at a younger age means by the time they’re older and whether they’re in the pathway or not, they know how to deal with it better.”

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