We all know the importance of regular exercise, yet teenage girls are finding periods problematic when it comes to sport. Research by Greater Manchester Moving found that 42% of 14-16 year old girls said that their period stops them taking part in sport during the school day, with 1 in 2 girls quitting sport altogether. However, female athletes have been coming together to tackle the taboo around sport and periods in an attempt to keep girls playing sport into adulthood.
In an article with BBC Sport, runner, and professional athlete Eilish McColgan discussed how painful periods landed her a DNF (did not finish) in a race meet in California in 2019, jeopardizing her chance at qualifying for the World Championships. Yet when McColgan posted about it on her Instagram account, she was met with an outpour of support. “I couldn’t believe the overwhelmingly positive response from other women. Many felt they were alone with this issue. And as it wasn’t something Olympic athletes spoke about, most assumed it didn’t affect us”.
McColgan goes on to say that, “This shouldn’t be an embarrassing topic. Coaches, physiotherapists, teachers, parents, partners and friends – they all play a role in making this an open dialogue. We need to feel comfortable having this discussion”
In April, the Lionesses once again made the headlines, but this time it was about the colour of their shorts. An unofficial campaign by the football team, headed up by striker Beth Mead, prompted the Football Association to change the colour of the Lionesses shorts from white to blue; a decision made to alleviate the longstanding concerns about wearing white during their periods.
Mead discussed the issue with Nike, the manufacturer of the team’s kit, during last summer’s European Championship in England. “It’s very nice to have an all-white kit, but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s that time of the month,” said the Arsenal striker, who is recovering from a serious knee injury. “We deal with it [menstruation] as best as we can but we discussed the shorts issue together as a team and fed our views through to Nike.” It’s not just football that is experiencing a change in attitude towards periods. Wimbledon is to drop the tournament’s strict all-white dress code to allow its female athletes to concentrate on playing and reduce anxiety around periods. The change comes after protests at the 2022 tournament from the Address The Dress Code campaign, which highlighted the anxiety that women can face when competing in traditional whites. Female players will now be permitted to wear dark undershorts in a bid to combat the concerns of female athletes.
Finally, The Well HQ created Sport in Her Shoes, a variety of virtual and physical events to help tackle the challenges young women face playing sport when they reach puberty. Visiting various schools across the country, the three founders run workshops and conferences to educate teachers, coaches, parents and children. Topics include the impact of female puberty on sport, as well as the menstrual cycle, female-centric nutrition, breast support, female mindset, and coaching girls.