Female AthletesKaipara Wahine
Considerations for female athletes
Girls and women in New Zealand have been playing football for almost 50 years. As participation numbers rise, so does the education of player well-being, sport performance, and injury prevention. Female footballers of all ages and skill levels have varying considerations across their playing career and participation in the sport. We can work with these considerations to enhance our performance, reduce our overall risk for injury, and improve our well-being based on our personal and team goals. Let’s look at three specific topics in more detail.
The biological process that is a measure of health in women, girls, and people who have a cycle.
What is the menstrual cycle?
The menstrual cycle is a biological rhythm that usually begins with the onset of puberty. In addition to the female reproductive cycle, the menstrual cycle regulates many other facets of female health. This includes physiological, metabolic, thermoregulatory, and cognitive functions. As a result, there are ways female athletes can work with our cycles to improve our sport performance and reduce the risk of injury.
The menstrual cycle usually lasts around 28 days and is made up into two phases: the follicular phase and the luteal phase. Ovulation occurs in the middle, around day 14, and is triggered by the rise in luteinizing hormone. It is the interplay of rising and falling hormone levels (Oestrogen and Progesterone) which result in the changes throughout the menstrual cycle.
Why should I track my menstrual cycle?
Tracking symptoms, length, and needs for your period (using an app or journalling manually) may help identify your menstrual health and detect deviations or irregularities prompting a doctor's visit. It is also useful for forecasting your menstrual cycle so you can take proactive action to reduce symptoms, maintain energy levels, and know when to pack an extra tampon or pair of shorts in case you need them.
Menstrural Cycle FAQ
1. What are the different hormones in the menstrual cycle and how do they affect me?
2. How do I train while experiencing pre-menstrual symptoms or while I am on my period?
3. Is period pain normal?
Although period pain may be a common symptom for most females, it is not normal if the pain is debilitating and effects your ability to perform day-to-day activities. You should contact your GP if your period pain is affecting your ability to work, study, train, or exercise.
Download our menstrual cycle resource
Female athletes are at a higher risk of suffering certain injuries due to anatomical reasons, hormone cycles, and social and cultural factors.
Women and girls are more susceptible to such injuries as:
This may be due to any number of reasons including the menstrual cycle and the hormones it regulates, female biomechanics and anatomy and other social and cultural factors (resources, training access and exposure, etc.)
How do these factors affect the risk for injury in female athletes?
How can we reduce the incidence and severity of injuries?
Download our female injury susceptibility resource
Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport and Low Energy Availability can affect people of all genders. However, the menstrual cycle can be a sign of RED-S and/or LEA which can have a negative impact bodily functions and health.
What is LEA and how does it affect my sport performance?
Signs of LEA may include:
What is RED-S and how is it associated with LEA?
Relative energy deficient in sport (RED-S) is the constant state of insufficient energy availability that leads to the impairment of multiple body systems and functions. In women and girls, this usually occurs when low energy availability (LEA) is persistent, and the body forgoes fuelling basic bodily functions.
Signs of RED-S may include:
RED-S and the effects on the body
How do we prevent LEA and RED-S?
What do we do if we suspect we or someone else has RED-S?
Download our LEA and RED-S resource
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