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Study to Track Hormone Levels in Female Athletes

Andy Berg

The English Institute of Sport is embarking on research that will study hormone levels in female athletes in an effort to better understand how they affect training. 

The EIS will roll out regular saliva testing of female athletes to check for the rise and fall of estrogen and progesterone.

Those hormones can affect everything from a woman’s menstrual cycle to their bone density.

If they don’t have a healthy menstrual cycle, it means for whatever reason, something’s not quite right,” Dr Richard Burden, co-lead for female health at the EIS, told The Guardian.

According to one recent study of female rugby players, 93 percent of them reported cycle-related symptoms, and 67 percent thought these affected their athletic performance.

Chelsea Women was one of the first football teams in the world to tailor its training schedule around players’ menstrual cycles.

“There’s a very thin layer of evidence to suggest that there may be ways in which you can manipulate training based on where someone is in their menstrual cycle. The problem is that if you’re not measuring the hormones, you don’t actually know what’s happening. Just because you have a normal cycle length, doesn’t mean that your hormones are behaving in a normal fashion,” Burden said.

“Also, all of the research right now is very generalized, and applying what is happening in a general population to an athlete who is performing at the highest level she possibly can doesn’t really cut it.”

The EIS hopes that by tracking the women’s hormone levels it can provide more individualized support for female athletes.

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