In Florida, Parents and Doctors Question Sharing of Athletes' Menstrual Histories | Athletic Business

In Florida, Parents and Doctors Question Sharing of Athletes' Menstrual Histories

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High school student-athletes in Florida have to answer more than three dozen questions with their doctors before they can be cleared to practice or play.

As reported by The Palm Beach Post, most questions directly relate to the prospective athlete's fitness to play sports and injury prevention. They include:

Do you have any chronic illnesses?

Do you have asthma?

Have you broken any bones or dislocated any joints?

Have you ever had chest pain during or after exercise?

But for female athletes, other questions on the form have gone from merely awkward to controversial in the context of a changing legal landscape surrounding abortion rights and privacy concerns.

For more than 20 years, the Florida State High School Athletic Association has asked female athletes to answer the following questions on their pre-participation form: 

  1. When was your first menstrual period?
  2. When was your most recent menstrual period?
  3. How much time do you usually have from the start of one period tothe start of another?
  4. How many periods have you had in the last year?
  5. What was the longest time between periods in the last year?

The questions are marked as optional.

Although the questions are nothing new, athletes, their families and their doctors are taking a closer look at where this information goes after the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court. 

With reproductive privacy and parental rights over children's data top of mind, both abortion rights advocates and concerned parents have raised alarms about the questions and and how they can be used.

Period history is important information for pediatricians to know as they screen for bleeding and hormonal conditions that can cause complications for athletes. 

But contrary to other states, Florida forwards all of that medical data to the athlete's school. Other states require only the physician's signature page to clear them to play.

"I don’t think it was our intent for this information to be shared with anyone else," one physician, who served on a national committee that wrote a similar form, said. "The bottom line for the coach is: 'Are they clear or not?' The rest of the information is between the athlete and their family."

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