Performance and knowledge related to the menstrual cycle within Swedish elite sports : From the athletes’ point of view

University essay from Gymnastik- och idrottshögskolan, GIH/Institutionen för idrotts- och hälsovetenskap

Abstract: Aim The overall aim was to investigate Swedish elite athlete’s perceptions about the effects of the menstrual cycle on sports performance. The research questions applied was: 1. How do elite athletes perceive the effects of the menstrual cycle on performance, and do they adjust training or competition accordingly? 2. How do elite athletes perceive the knowledge and beliefs within the area, among their coaches? Method A cross-sectional study design was applied using an online questionnaire for data collection. The study group of interest were female Swedish elite athletes, from both team and individual sports. Teams and athletes defined as ‘elite athletes’ were contacted and offered participation. All data collected from the questionnaire was processed in IBM SPSS® where both descriptive and analytic statistics was performed. The Shapiro-Wilk test was used to test the assumptions of normality for the data, Chi2-tests and Fisher’s exact test were used to examine relationships between variables in the sample and the statistical significance level for analysis was set at p ≤ 0.05. Results Both menstrual- and premenstrual symptoms (PMS) effected the athletes in the sample. The psychological PMS affected close to 70% of the sample in at least one aspect and the symptoms menstrual bleeding affected majority of the sample (82%). The phases were athletes perceived themselves perform the best and the worst were different, with majority of the sample perceiving their worst performance being close to bleeding. This may be an effect of the negative symptoms associated with the bleeding phase. Both coaches’ and athletes’ perceived knowledge were considerably low, as well as athletes’ possibilities to discuss menstrual problems with their coach. Conclusions Elite athletes perceive negative effects of the menstrual cycle and somewhat experience variations in performance throughout the cycle. The knowledge within the area, especially for people involved in female sports, needs to improve.

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