Breaking the taboo on periods and sport performance

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As an athlete, hurdler-turned-bobsledder Lolo Jones has learned about the impact of sleep, hydration, and nutrition on her athletic performance. But her period?

“I’ve been to three Olympic Games, I’ve competed for over 15 years, and I have no idea the effect of my period on my practice or performance. Does that surprise you?” Jones asked Dr. Natalie Brown on Saturday’s episode of “On Her Turf at the Olympics.”

Brown, who researches the impact of periods on sport performance and participation, was far from shocked.

“It’s really common for athletes not to talk about their periods, and almost just deal with it as something completely separate from their athletic performance,” she explained. “My research started talking to female athletes. I wanted to understand what their experiences were, what their perceptions were of their menstrual cycle in sport.”

What Brown found was that, while women may feel like their training or performance is impacted by their period, “they didn’t communicate with their coaches or speak to them about that.”

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While the topic is still somewhat taboo, some athletes – including beach volleyball player Alix Klineman – have been more vocal in speaking up about how their period impacts their performance.

“[Menstrual health] is something I’ve always kind of wanted to shed a light on,” Klineman told “On Her Turf at the Olympics” after winning gold at the Tokyo Olympics. “I think we are entitled to that kind of information to make educated decisions [about our bodies].” 

Klineman has even inspired her beach volleyball partner April Ross to learn more about the topic. “What she has learned has been so impactful,” Ross said. 

Ross also revealed that her own concerns heading into the gold medal match, not because of anything on the sand, but instead where she was in her cycle. 

“To be honest, I’m supposed to start my period soon, and I was a little bit worried about having that fatigue going into the [gold medal] match,” Ross said. “I tried to offset that however I could.” 

(Video of the nine-minute conversation is embedded above.