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      How the menstrual cycle and menstruation affect sporting performance: experiences and perceptions of elite female rugby players

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          To explore athletes’ past and current experiences and perceptions of the menstrual cycle in relation to its impact on sporting performance.


          15 international female rugby players participated in individual semi-structured interviews (age: 24.5±6.2 years). All interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim, resulting in 37 376 words of text for descriptive and thematic analysis. Inter-rater reliability checks resulted in a concordance of agreement of 83%.


          Almost all athletes (93%) reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms. Thirty-three per cent perceived heavy menstrual bleeding and 67% considered these symptoms impaired their performances. Two-thirds of athletes self-medicated to alleviate symptoms. Thematic analysis generated 262 meaning units, 38 themes, 10 categories and 4 general dimensions. The four general dimensions were: (1) symptoms: physiological and psychological menstrual cycle-related symptoms such as dysmenorrhoea, flooding, reduced energy levels, worry, distraction, fluctuating emotions and reduced motivation; (2) impact: perceived impact of menstruation on different aspects of daily lives and performance including negative and neutral responses; (3) resolution: the methods/approaches in dealing with menstruation-related concerns including accepting, or adapting and managing symptoms with self-medication or expert treatment; (4) support: available support and comfortability in discussing menstrual cycle-related issues.


          This study provides the first in-depth insight into athlete’s experiences of the menstrual cycle and perceived impact on training and competition. It highlights individual responses to menstrual ‘issues’ and emphasises the need for clinicians and support staff to undertake menstrual cycle profiling, monitoring and continue to develop awareness, openness, knowledge and understanding of the menstrual cycle.

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          Most cited references22

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          Belief and feeling: evidence for an accessibility model of emotional self-report.

          This review organizes a variety of phenomena related to emotional self-report. In doing so, the authors offer an accessibility model that specifies the types of factors that contribute to emotional self-reports under different reporting conditions. One important distinction is between emotion, which is episodic, experiential, and contextual, and beliefs about emotion, which are semantic, conceptual, and decontextualized. This distinction is important in understanding the discrepancies that often occur when people are asked to report on feelings they are currently experiencing versus those that they are not currently experiencing. The accessibility model provides an organizing framework for understanding self-reports of emotion and suggests some new directions for research.
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            The prevalence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea.

            Dysmenorrhea is a common menstrual complaint with a major impact on women's quality of life, work productivity, and health-care utilization. A comprehensive review was performed on longitudinal or case-control or cross-sectional studies with large community-based samples to accurately determine the prevalence and/or incidence and risk factors of dysmenorrhea. Fifteen primary studies, published between 2002 and 2011, met the inclusion criteria. The prevalence of dysmenorrhea varies between 16% and 91% in women of reproductive age, with severe pain in 2%-29% of the women studied. Women's age, parity, and use of oral contraceptives were inversely associated with dysmenorrhea, and high stress increased the risk of dysmenorrhea. The effect sizes were generally modest to moderate, with odds ratios varying between 1 and 4. Family history of dysmenorrhea strongly increased its risk, with odds ratios between 3.8 and 20.7. Inconclusive evidence was found for modifiable factors such as cigarette smoking, diet, obesity, depression, and abuse. Dysmenorrhea is a significant symptom for a large proportion of women of reproductive age; however, severe pain limiting daily activities is less common. This review confirms that dysmenorrhea improves with increased age, parity, and use of oral contraceptives and is positively associated with stress and family history of dysmenorrhea.
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              Prevalence and impact of dysmenorrhea on Hispanic female adolescents.

              Dysmenorrhea is the leading cause of short-term school absenteeism. It is associated with a negative impact on social, academic, and sports activities of many female adolescents. Dysmenorrhea has not previously been described among Hispanic adolescents, the fastest growing minority group in the United States. To determine the prevalence of dysmenorrhea among Hispanic female adolescents; its impact on academic performance, school attendance, and sports and social activities; and its management. A total of 706 Hispanic female adolescents, in grades 9 through 12, completed a 31-item questionnaire about the presence, duration, severity, treatment, and limitations of dysmenorrhea at a local urban high school. Among participants who had had a period in the previous 3 months, 85% reported dysmenorrhea. Of these, 38% reported missing school due to dysmenorrhea during the 3 months prior to the survey and 33% reported missing individual classes. Activities affected by dysmenorrhea included class concentration (59%), sports (51%), class participation (50%), socialization (46%), homework (35%), test-taking skills (36%), and grades (29%). Treatments taken for dysmenorrhea included rest (58%), medications (52%), heating pad (26%), tea (20%), exercise (15%), and herbs (7%). Fourteen percent consulted a physician and 49% saw a school nurse for help with their symptoms. Menstrual pain was significantly associated with school absenteeism and decreased academic performance, sports participation, and socialization with peers (P<.01). Dysmenorrhea is highly prevalent among Hispanic adolescents and is related to school absenteeism and limitations on social, academic, and sports activities. Given that most adolescents do not seek medical advice for dysmenorrhea, health care providers should screen routinely for dysmenorrhea and offer treatment. As dysmenorrhea reportedly affects school performance and attendance, school administrators may have a vested interest in providing health education on this topic to their students. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2000;154:1226-1229.

                Author and article information

                British Journal of Sports Medicine
                Br J Sports Med
                April 29 2020
                : bjsports-2019-101486
                © 2020


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