Contrary to popular belief, female athletes perform better during their period

Contrary to popular belief female athletes perform better during their

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    Stop preconceived ideas! If the word is freed, slowly but surely, around menstruation, certain clichés and taboos persist, particularly in terms of physical and mental performance. A new study challenges these many preconceived ideas, suggesting that the mental agility of women, and more specifically female athletes, was better during this time of the month. Explanations.

    Talking openly about menstruation-related symptoms remains difficult for many women around the world, whether at work, in intimate relationships, or even playing sports. A recent survey carried out among players from the French Rugby Federation even showed that the rules were still perceived as an obstacle to their performance, particularly due to premenstrual syndrome. An observation that researchers from University College London (UCL) and the Institute of Sport, Exercise & Health (ISEH) looked into. The latter more specifically sought to evaluate cognitive performance linked to sport during the menstrual cycle, and to compare their results with the perception of the main interested parties. And their conclusions turn out to be surprising.

    The scientists conducted a battery of cognitive tests designed to mimic the mental processes of team sports on more than 200 participants, twice, 14 days apart. The objective? Evaluate their reaction time, their errors, their attention, or even their precision. They were then asked to evaluate their mood, again twice, and to fill out a questionnaire on their symptoms, while applications were used to estimate the phase of the cycle in which the women were when they carried out these tests.

    A gap between perception and reality

    Published in the journal Neuropsychology, this research shows a surprising gap between women’s feelings and their actual performance, observed during the battery of tests. If the participants claimed to feel less well during this period of the month, with an impact, according to them, on their performance, the researchers observed a better reaction time (10 milliseconds on average) and a lower rate of reaction. errors (-25%) in tests during their menstruation.

    What is surprising is that the participants’ performance was better when they were on their period, which calls into question what women, and perhaps society in general, think about their abilities at this particular time of the month“, explains Dr Flaminia Ronca, main author of this work, in a press release. He added: “I hope this study will serve as a basis for positive conversations between coaches and athletes about perceptions and performance: how we feel does not always reflect how we perform.”

    An impact on injuries?

    Note, however, that the reaction time of the main subjects concerned was slower during the luteal phase, the period between ovulation and the first day of menstruation. The researchers estimate that it was on average 10 to 20 milliseconds slower than during the other phases. If we focus on the errors made, this phase does not seem to have disturbed the women participants any more. The reaction time finding, however, could explain why previous studies have reported more injuries in female athletes during the luteal phase.

    Research suggests that female athletes are more likely to suffer certain types of sports injuries during the luteal phase and the hypothesis is that this is due to biomechanical changes resulting from hormonal variations. But I wasn’t convinced that physical changes alone could explain this association.“, continues Dr Flaminia Ronca. She specifies: “Since progesterone has an inhibitory effect on the cerebral cortex and estrogen stimulates it, making us respond more slowly or more quickly, we wondered whether the injuries could result from a change in the timing of brain movements. athletes throughout the cycle“.

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