Sports rules and performance

Top athletes have no choice: they have to be at the top at the right time if they don't want to see victory pass them by. But if the competition falls on a day of menstruation or in the middle of pre-menstrual syndrome, what happens? Will their performance be affected? Will they see their hard work come to naught? A brief overview of this problem rarely mentioned in an environment where menstruation is still taboo.

Menstruation and fitness

Several studies have been carried out to determine the influence of the menstrual cycle on the performance of sportswomen. The results are quite surprising: they all show that the differences are not significant. Whether they are at the beginning, middle or end of the cycle, high-level sportswomen achieve roughly the same performances. Indeed, the plasma concentration of lactate which makes it possible to control and measure physical exercise remains the same throughout the cycle.

For women with no particular symptoms during menstruation, there would therefore be no real problem. On the other hand, those who experience certain inconveniences such as headaches, nausea or even vomiting, pronounced cramps , will have difficulty being on top, which seems quite logical.

It should also be noted that the studies are carried out using women who do not have pre-menstrual syndrome (in particular that of Antonios Tsampoukos1 in 2010). However, it turns out that it is rather this period that bothers top athletes: fatigue, pelvic, lumbar or chest pain. The weight gain that can occur during this phase can also be a problem, especially for women who practice a sport with a weight category such as judo, wrestling or rowing.

Menstrual cycle and effect on concentration

The psychological aspect should not be overlooked either. Many women see their mind weakened by pre-menstrual syndrome. However, the mental during a competition… It is one of the most important factors of success. During menstruation, sportswomen may also be concerned about their protection and become distracted more easily. The taboo that reigns in this environment in relation to bleeding does not allow them to give their all serenely.

It was also shown that during menstruation, the reaction time was longer than during the rest of the cycle. This effect is due to the action of prostaglandins circulating in the brain. Unfortunately, on a 100 meter race, a few milliseconds can make the difference…

The feelings of sportswomen during their menstruation

Some athletes have managed to break the taboo by clearly stating that their lack of results in this or that competition was due to their rules. This is for example the case of the Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui who did not perform very well, according to her own words, in the 4x100m relay of the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. At the end of the competition, she declared that feeling very tired following the arrival of her period the day before the test. The team won 4th place. Would it have been different if Yuanhui had had her period on another day?

Unsavory solutions

In order not to have their period during competition, some sportswomen chain the packs of pills. While this practice is not problematic when done on an ad hoc basis, it can have serious long-term consequences. The lack of estrogen in the body is indeed responsible for osteoporosis, among others. Fractures are therefore much more common: not ideal for anyone, but even less so for top athletes.

Menstruation can be a real problem for athletes during competition. Do not neglect the practice of physical activity during your period : this often helps to calm the pain!

By Emily