The last great sporting taboo

Does the menstrual cycle affect performance? A new study shouts about a great taboo.

The last great sporting taboo
Photo: All Over Press

In January Heather Watson broke the silence and talked about menstruation, when the British tennis player crashed out of the Australian Open. The statement by Watson was one of a very few statements out in the open about elite athletes’ periods. Now a new study by the Female Athlete Health Group – a collaborative project between St Mary’s University and University College London – has revealed some new facts about the last great sporting taboo.
The group has talked with 1,862 women, including 90 on an elite level, active in for example London Marathon, and 41.7 per cent said their menstrual cycle affected their performance.


“It’s this big taboo. I found that awareness is so poor and people don’t know anything about it. By doing this research, we hope to raise more awareness and to encourage further examination of the subject,” Georgie Bruinvels says to BBC.
She was leading the study by the Female Athlete Health Group and is at the same time a marathon runner and winner of Manchester Marathon 2015.
“As a female athlete myself, I can see how much it impacts. So many elite coaches are male and it’s hard for them to understand,” Georgie Bruinvels explains.
Bruinvels is now using crowfunding to get to the next stage of her research in a field, which Dr Richard Burden, senior physiologist at the English Institute of Sport, describes with these words:
“”In elite sport, the research in that area is quite limited.”