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Posted in: High Performance Coaching

Should coaches ask their athletes about their menstruation?

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  • Coach_Chris

    A recent article in Coaching Edge suggests that coaches should be aware of their athlete's menstruation cycle and particularly if athletes are missing periods for over three consequtive months - an early danger sign of RED-S. So how as coaches should we go about this?  How can coaches help when menstruation affects women's athletic performance?

  • smilner

    I would consider that how this is approached depends greatly on the age and level of the athlete in question. I would also say that it is not about how comfortable you feel discussing it but moreover how comfortable the girl or women feels discussing it with you. Each women will have very personal

    At a younger age, girls may very well be more sensitive about this conversation. You could speak to the parents of the child/young women and explain warning signs to watch out for. If you approach this conversation sensitively (maybe an email asking to discuss this subject) you can involve the young person through her parents.

    Also, please use the appropriate terminology when discussing menstruation. This way you are not personalising or trivialising the subject. Approach it as any biological/medical situation. But don't blind with scientific terminology.

    You should be professional but approachable and empathetic. Read up on the topic before you get involved with discussions.

    I hope this helps. Does anyone else have any other thoughts or wants to share any experiences in this subject?

  • pippaglen

    I feel all coaches should be aware of menstrual cycles of young athletes,  I know for some coaches and athlete's it's a sensitive and embarrassing subject that many don't really want to talk about.

    Going  back when I was an athletes there was no information about training, nutrition, hormones the effects the cycle could have .  I started training at the age of 9 by the age of 12  I was training 7 days a week twice a day ate very little weighed 6st  wet through but for the love of athletics I wasn't bothered. I didn't start my menstrual cycle until my late teens, my friends and family used to take the mick out of me for not having breasts my mum was always concerned about my weight and always had he at the doctors to make sure I was OK.    I find it very scary to think this is still happening today due to being embarrassed about talking about the menstrual cycle. The lack of information coaches and athlete's have. I  agree with the above comment about coaches needing more knowledge, not being afraid, researching and asking patents. 

    If you have many  female athletes why not get a group talk started use a female coach if your male and  don't like talking about this subject, let athletes know about the dangers of over training, why the menstrual cycle can stop athletes have a right to know. 

    If athletes wish to perform at a high standard I feel it's the coaches duty to give as much information about the menstrual cycle the possible dangers of over training,  hormones fluctuations, how this can effect  them in and out of competition and later in life.  This will help athlete's decide what actions they can take if they need too.  

    Girls menstrual cycles are starting at a young age more and more children are competing at a young age this needs attention.  Look at 2012 Olympic games,  Togo swimmer,  Rebecca Adze Kpossi. Swimming in the Olympic games at the age of 13 has her training for the Olympics effected her menstrual cycle, growth,diet, hormones?  How much information do you think she had, her parents or coach. 

    I asked this question to my friends daughters who were training  for the 2012 Olympics, I asked do you perform better during or after your menstrual cycle?. Neither of them were embarrassed to answer,  one replied I throw better during my menstrual cycle,  the other sister replied I take the contraceptive pill when I know I have a competition and due for my period at the same time as I don't throw as well when menstruating.  Be careful how you approach the subject but as a coach you also need to plan around this and make allowances.  

    I will say that UK athletics have some great information  videos on U coach about this subject which I watched about 4 months ago maybe other sports should use. 

  • Judobob

    From my experience I have found discussing it in an educational context is useful. Explaining how menstration can affect strength training, how training can affect menstration and and how weight can be affected (I'm in a weight classification sport). 

    I used to have to do this myself but I'm in a fortunate position now where I have female coaches and mentors so it's much easier. 

  • BarbAugustin

    Like many others have said, this can be embarrassing for the athlete. However, I encourage my athletes to keep a training diary. The girls can include an extra entry for their menstrual calendar day (day 1 being the day her period starts). For the more motivated, they can also track when they ovulate (assuming they're not on the pill). Tracking it in a diary puts it in the realm of monitoring normal health/training indicators (along with sleep, weight, mood, etc). Once they track it, they can then gain an understanding of whereabouts in their cycle they perform better. They can then choose to take the pill to ensure they are at the correct part of their cycle for major competitions. Obviously, this step is only appropriate for older athletes - I wouldn't be suggesting that to a 16 y.o.! Of course, there is also the RED-S issue (mentioned earlier). Years ago there was a really good book 'Hormones and Female Athletic Performance' by Ey and Daly (?). I lent my copy to someone and haven't seen it since. This book suggests changes to training based on where in her cycle she is. For example, there are certain parts of the cycle where a woman will be very flexible, others where she will be strong, others suited to endurance training, etc. If you can get hold of this book, I recommend it strongly and you could copy sections or lend the book to your athletes. 

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