Sep 30, 2021
FIFA Takes Part in Ground-Breaking Female Player Health & Performance Study

FIFA, in collaboration with Orreco and Western Sydney University, is investing in female player health and performance research to build better future sports science systems.

For decades, the scientific understanding of the female athlete has been overlooked. Physiology, nutrition, injury patterns, sleep, and recovery recommendations have all been based on research into male athletes, but this is quickly changing.

fifaA new, exciting collaboration has seen FIFA join forces with Orreco, an Irish sports bioanalytics company that has pioneered innovation in female athlete sports science support, and Western Sydney University, Australia, to begin bridging this knowledge gap and come up with actionable guidelines or recommendations. This research will help provide the evidence base needed to provide data-driven system solutions for female football player sports science support via a fully-funded Ph.D. studentship.

Female football players have specific needs that differ from those of men. Research has highlighted that 51-93 percent of female athletes report performance detriments associated with their menstrual cycle (Bruinvels et al., 2017; Findlay et al., 2020). In addition to symptoms being common, certain menstrual cycle phases are associated with impaired sleep, which may subsequently delay recovery from training and matches and also increase the risk of illness (Walsh et al., 2020).

Developing interventions to support elite athletes in improving health and performance are predicated on accurate determination of menstrual cycle phases, which are highly individualized in terms of cycle length, symptom prevalence, and severity. Best practice in identifying the menstrual cycle phase involves routine monitoring of urinary and blood samples to quantify hormonal changes throughout the menstrual cycle, procedures that are clearly not pragmatic in supporting athletes competing at the pinnacle of their sport.

However, with new tools, technology, and measurement techniques, this research will examine methods to better understand and enhance the monitoring of menstrual cycle phases and their impact on female health and performance in football. For the first time, comprehensive empirical evidence will be gathered at scale to produce a direct impact for players and, ultimately, the whole women’s game.

Professor Charlie Pedlar, CSO at Orreco, said: “We are at last seeing research ramping up to serve the needs of female athletes, but there is a lot to do. This exciting FIFA, Orreco, and Western Sydney University collaboration will connect research directly into football clubs to serve the real day-to-day needs of players.”

Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, Female Athlete Science Director at Orreco, continued: “Too many athletes have to deal with issues relating to female-specific physiology, like fluctuations in their readiness to perform, sometimes debilitating menstrual cycle symptoms, disrupted sleep, and an elevated risk of injury. They don’t always have the systems in place around them to first understand and then be empowered to proactively manage these. Without research, we’re stuck trying to find the most appropriate solutions, and this research will help to change that.”

» ALSO SEE: Study — Challenges with Nutritional & Dietary Behavior of Para-Athletes

FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer Sarai Bareman concluded: “There is a real need to have more research in the women’s game, and as the game continues its rapid growth, it is important that we tailor our support based on clear evidence and data. We are excited to be part of this groundbreaking research and to see what interventions we can develop to directly impact and improve our game.”

The Ph.D. studentship includes fees, a consumables budget, and a stipend. The deadline for applications closes on 31 October 2021. Click here to apply.

If you are interested in collaborating in this area, please contact [email protected]

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