Medical Tuesday Blog
An Uncomfortable Topic
Does the menstrual cycle affect athletic performance?
The Economist | The Print Edition | Aug 23rd 2016 | BY L.H.M.
AS THE reporter for CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, approached Fu Yuanhui, the swimmer was crouching on the poolside floor. Helped up by one of her teammates, Ms Fu, a bronze medalist in the 100m backstroke in Rio, apologised for struggling on her leg of the 4x100m medley relay on August 13th, in which China missed out on third place by just 0.17 seconds. Visibly in pain, Ms Fu explained that her period had begun the night before and that she was “fatigued, very tired.” Her split over 100m in the relay was 59.53 seconds, putting China in seventh place heading into the second leg of the race. Had Ms Fu repeated her medal-winning time of 58.76 seconds in the individual event, set on August 8th, China would have been in second place at the end of her portion of the race—and would have beaten Australia to the silver medal.
That Ms Fu’s performance in the 100m backstroke had worsened by 0.77 seconds in the space of five days—the difference between first and last place in the individual event was 0.78 seconds—escaped most onlookers. Many reporters focused instead on the stir her comments had stoked in her homeland. Ms Fu’s comments have broken the taboo on a subject long ignored in China’s polite society. Only 2% of Chinese women use tampons, and this month marked the launch of the country’s first domestic tampon brand. Some women posting on Sina Weibo, a Chinese social network, commented that they had not even realised one could safely swim while menstruating.
The subject of menstruation in sport is almost as taboo in the West as it is in Asia. A few Olympians have spoken up about it: Hannah MacLeod, a member of the British women’s field hockey team that won gold on August 19th, has disclosed that her coach tracks the team’s menstrual cycles. Heather Watson, a British tennis player who competed in the singles and doubles tournaments in Rio, described feeling dizzy, nauseous and bloated after struggling with “girl things” during a first-round loss at the Australian Open in 2015. . .
With so little concrete information about how menstruation affects sportswomen, it is impossible to know exactly what impact it had on Ms Fu’s performance in the pool in Rio. Variability is part of sport, and no two races are the same. But anybody who witnessed the Chinese swimmer’s fine performance in the individual backstroke event and her obvious discomfort after the relay would wonder if menstrual pains had slowed her down. Until sports scientists have produced more thorough evidence, and sportswomen have begun more frank discussions of the type Ms Fu has sparked on Chinese social media, there can be no answer. . .
That reminds me of my USAF days. Military wives would come in requesting to delay their menstrual periods by a week or two to avoid having a period on or shortly after their husband’s arrival. They would say that they would have sex at least three times a day for at least a week after he got home. They wanted enough of the first portion of their pill cycle until their husbands were fully dehorned.
All female participants in the Olympics could ask their doctors to help them delay their menstrual cycle until after the games.
Medical Myths originate when we think Females need to compete with Males to be equal.
Myths disappear when we accept the fact that females are different, anatomically, physiologically, biochemically, emotionally, psychologically, sexually;
In the Olympics Females compete with Females and Males compete with Males.