Pain relief, performance… the taboo is beginning to lift on menstruation in sport

Qinwen Zheng – AFP

It concerns more than 15.5 million French women, who take an average of 38 years of their lives for a budget of 8,000 to 23,000 euros for hygienic protection: the rules, a topic that is still taboo in the sports world.

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

A rare item on a topic that is still taboo in the sports world. However, according to a study published by Puma and Modibodi (brand of menstrual panties), one in two women would stop exercising 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 did gymnastics and competition dance for a long time. I didn’t stop everything at once, I stopped gradually seven years ago.”

At 34 years old, Vanessa belongs to 10% of women with endometriosis, a gynecological condition related to the presence of tissue similar to the endometrium outside the uterus that causes pain attacks, forcing her to stop all physical activity . “Sports require contraction of the abdomen, even when you walk you are tightening the abs. It compresses these specific mucous membranes and causes crises,” explains Vanessa Clatot.

“This cannot be arranged”

In elite athletes, the menstrual cycle is sometimes seen as a problem. “Honestly, every time I don’t have my period at my next championship, I pray because it’s not possible to make that happen,” said Victoria Josse, French triple player.

While 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 affect their performance.

“A number of sportswomen take contraceptives, such as the pill, and they come to us to ask that they don’t get their period because they are ashamed. Especially because in certain sports you can be in a white jacket, a leotard, gymnastics or synchronized swimming, for example, develops Carole Maître, gynecologist at the National Sports Institute (INSEP) starts menstruation, so we postpone menstruation for the next pack of pills.

The menstrual cycle to optimize performance

However, several studies show that the menstrual cycle can have a positive influence on sports performance. Especially football and athletics were the precursor sports in the area. German triathlete Laura Philipp explained on her Instagram account that she studied her progress based on the evolution of her cycle. Through her experiments, she found that some days were more conducive to maximizing performance. The 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. Then, in the follicular period, the stamina starts, especially when estrogen starts to be at its peak. In this phase we go saw that the high jump had superior results compared to any other period of the cycle,” adds Carole Maitre.

From now on, the goal of top athletes is to make men, who are often enthusiastic when the subject is mentioned, aware. “As soon as we talk about blood, the boys are in fashion: ‘Ah disgusting’. It makes me laugh. I tell them that blood is nothing, Victoria Josse jokes. We need to lift the taboo on this subject.” Like her, 75% of the women surveyed for the survey believe that the rules in the sports world should be stated more freely.

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