Pain management, performance... the taboo is starting to lift on menstruation in sport

Pain management, performance… the taboo is starting to lift on menstruation in sport

Qinwen Zheng – AFP

They concern more than 15.5 million French women, occupy 38 years of their life on average for a budget ranging from 8,000 to 23,000 euros for hygienic protection: the rules, a subject still taboo in the world of sport.

“It’s just girl stuff. The first day is always hard. But I have to play with this big pain from the first day. I can’t go against my nature. I would like to be a man on the court in these kinds of moments. I would not have to suffer from that”, confided Zheng Qinwen, Chinese tennis player in a press conference, to justify her defeat against world number 1 Iga Swiatek in the round of 16 at Roland-Garros.

A rare fact concerning a subject still taboo in the world of sport. However, according to a survey published by Puma and Modibodi (a brand of menstrual panties), one in two women would stop sport because of their period. The reasons? Pain, fear of leaks, gaze of others or even endometriosis in some cases.

Vanessa Clatot is one of those women who had to stop everything: “I practiced gymnastics and competitive dance for a very long time. I didn’t stop everything all at once, I stopped gradually seven years ago. “.

At 34, Vanessa is among 10% of women with endometriosis, a gynecological condition linked to the presence of tissue similar to the uterine lining outside the uterus and which causes attacks of pain, forcing her to stop all physical activity. “Sport requires abdominal contraction, even when you walk, you contract the abdominals. It compresses these particular mucous membranes and triggers crises”, explains Vanessa Clatot.

“It’s not possible to manage this”

In top athletes, the menstrual cycle is sometimes seen as a problem. “Frankly, every time, I pray that I don’t have my period during my next championship because it is not possible to manage that”, expresses Victoria Josse, French triple jumper.

If some athletes are not disturbed by their cycle during competitions, others like Victoria Josse try to find all possible solutions so that it does not interfere with their performance.

“A certain number of sportswomen are on contraceptives, like the pill, and they come to ask us for an absence of menstruation because they are embarrassed. Especially since you can be, in certain sports, with a white coat, a leotard, in gymnastics or synchronized swimming for example, develops Carole Maître, gynecologist at the national sports institute (INSEP). start the period, and we therefore postpone the period for the next pack of pills.

The menstrual cycle to optimize performance

However, several studies show that the menstrual cycle can have a positive impact on sports performance. Football and athletics in particular were the precursor sports on the subject. German triathlete Laura Philipp explained on her Instagram account that she studied her progress based on the evolution of her cycle. Through her experimentation, she noticed that some days were more conducive to maximizing performance. Same observation at Chelsea, where the club has decided to adapt its training program to the menstrual cycle of its players.

Results? Fewer injuries and better performance. “During the period, we will work on the technical aspects. We will certainly be more efficient than asking for long endurance. Afterwards, in the follicular period, endurance begins, especially when estrogen begins to be at its highest. In this phase, we saw that the high jump had superior results compared to another period of the cycle”, adds Carole Maitre.

From now on, the objective for top-level athletes is to raise awareness among men, who are often fond of when the subject is mentioned. “As soon as we talk about blood, the boys are in mode: ‘Ah disgusting’. It makes me laugh, I tell them that blood is nothing, quips Victoria Josse. We must lift the taboo in relation to this topic.” Like her, 75% of women questioned for the survey think that the rules should be mentioned more freely in the world of sport.

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