Women athletes have different needs. Period.
Chelsea F.C. Women, the UK women’s pro-soccer club, has announced that their training schedule will now accommodate the team’s menstrual cycles. They hope this new provision will promote more productive practices, reduce injuries and enhance game performance.
Team manager Emma Hayes, who observed firsthand how her players’ cycles impact their game, complained that women’s teams have been training in the same way as men — to their detriment.
“I am a female coach in an industry where women have always been treated like small men,” Hayes told the Telegraph. “The application of anything from rehab to strength and conditioning to tactical all come from the basis of what men do. The starting point is that we are women and, ultimately, we go through something very different to men on a monthly basis.”
Players’ workout and diet plans will be designed to boost energy when hormones dip, mitigate bloating and abdominal discomfort and reduce risk of injury to muscles, ligaments and tendons. Soft tissue injuries, particularly of the ACL, have been linked to increased joint flexibility due to a rise in oestrogen hormone levels during the menstrual cycle, according to the Telegraph.
To help organize the new training regimen, players were asked to download the women’s health app FitrWoman, developed by international cross-country runner Georgie Bruinvels, whose Ph.D. from the University College London focused on iron deficiency and menstrual cycles in sports performance, the Times reported. The research scientist also helped the winning US women’s national team keep tabs on their periods during the 2019 World Cup.
Her service allows users to report and follow each phase of their cycles: menstruation, pre-ovulation, ovulation, premenstrual.
At the beginning and end of the cycle, Hayes noticed that her team’s coordination suffered, whereas, around the third phase, women tended to gain weight and crave more junk food. According to Bruinvels, women are also more susceptible to inflammatory injury during the early stages of the menstrual cycle.
“The menstrual cycle is an inflammatory process and excess inflammation can result in an injury,” said Bruinvels. “It’s not solely down to high levels of oestrogen, but tracking the cycle is also very important in terms of bone-injury risk.”
Hayes added, “These players are going to be the first generation of women who are well educated about their menstrual cycle and they will spread that knowledge as far as they possibly can and we hope that becomes a culture within every football club in the world.”