Dec 7, 2017
Conquering the Cycle

Little has been said about how the menstrual cycle impacts performance and injury risk for female athletes, but experts seem to agree that it does play a role. A new app is aiming to help both coaches and athletes understand this relationship better.

“It provides people with an understanding and solutions about what they can do to reduce the impact [of the menstrual cycle],” Georgie Bruinvels, co-developer of the app and a Sports Scientist and Researcher for the Irish sports and data company Orreco, told CNN.

The app, called FitrWoman, was launched this summer. To use it, athletes log information about their cycle length, how long their period typically lasts, and the date of their last menses. The app factors in this information to generate daily tips about physiological changes and how to train.

“During my research, I was finding more interesting information around the menstrual cycle,” said Bruinvels. “How it can affect performance and what can be done to reduce that, and what caution should be applied at certain times of the month. Athletes train for every eventuality, but they don’t train for their menstrual cycle.

“I know an athlete who competed in the Sydney Olympics, and she said she came on her period the night before the race, because tapering, which is a reduction in training before big races, and flying can bring on a period,” Bruinvels continued. “She was so underprepared that she didn’t know what to do.”

One caution during certain times in the cycle is that women may be more susceptible to injury, as hormones cause ligaments and tendons to become lax and elastic. Incorporating the information from the app could help prevent injury.

“Risk of injuries, like anterior cruciate ligament or other soft-tissue ligaments, is increased when oestrogen levels are high just before ovulation,” Bruinvels said. “When you have high levels of oestrogen, it means stability is affected. The most important thing is understanding. [Athletes] need to have physiological awareness of why.”

This awareness can lead to changing training programs for the better.

“There are certain times of the month when you are stronger, so you can lift heavy weights, but there are certain times, to get the same benefits, you don’t have to lift those heavy weights,” Bruinvels said. “The best thing we’ve had is athletes saying, ‘If only we had your app, we wouldn’t have the injury problems [we] have now.’

Along with training tips

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