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Science graduate’s presentation on impact of menstrual cycle on athletic performance wins award

A science graduate has won a prestigious national award for her research exploring

he relationship between the menstrual cycle and physical performance of inter county football GAA  players.

For the study, 20 inter-county players were recruited during the pre-season training phase.
All players completed a detailed online survey. Two distinct phases of the menstrual cycle were subsequently identified, the early follicular phase (day 1-5) and the mid-luteal phase (20-25). Over the next month, the participants were tested during these two phases, via a 20m sprint test and a maximal jump height test. Overall, the participants had a significantly slower sprint time in the early follicular phase in comparison to the mid-luteal phase with no difference in jump height observed.

The research was conducted by ATU science graduate, Colette Collins who has won the “2022 SURE Network Award for Best Oral Presentation”, at this year’s Science Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) Network Conference for her work.
She said: “Qualitatively, all players reported experiencing menstrual cycle symptoms and 50% believed that these symptoms affected their playing performance. In addition, the qualitative survey analysis highlighted the lack of player awareness or understanding of the potential impact of the menstrual cycle on sport. Furthermore, despite the prevalence of symptoms, only 15% of players had previously discussed this issue with their coach. Players also declined to highlight recurrent concerns regarding sufficient changing and sanitary facilities at matches. The findings of this study indicated that women’s health

should be considered during formal reviews of athlete performance and strategies should be implemented to encourage more open communication between coaches and their athletes. Lastly, it is clear that both coaches and players would benefit from educational training on the potential physiological impact of the menstrual cycle phases on athlete performance.”

Colette, from Carrowmore Lacken, Co Mayo, completed her final year B.Sc.(Hons)

in Sport and Exercise Science in June  and graduated last month. She was one of 61 students from six different Higher Education institutes around Ireland to present their research projects to a national audience of over 400 final year undergraduate students.

“Completing this research was an eye opener from start to finish”, she says. “The

taboo surrounding the menstrual cycle is still evidently present in today’s society at all levels in sport. It has spiked a major passion within me for menstrual cycle specific research in sport and I hope to continue to progress the literature in this area going forward. A huge

thank you to my supervisor Dr Siobhan Leahy for her help and guidance

throughout this process.”

Dr Siobhan Leahy, ATU Galway-Mayo Department of Sport, Exercise & Nutrition, who supervised Colette’s research said: “Colette’s achievement in winning this award is just reward for a huge amount of work that went into the planning and conduct of her project. This is a hugely important area of the research with the potential to inform planning of training programs and phases for female athletes competing at all levels.”

Dr Therese Montgomery, ATU Galway-Mayo lecturer and chair of the National SURE Network says: “I wish to congratulate Collette and her supervisor Dr Leahy on their excellent and timely research. I wish Collette well as she prepares to present this research at the World Conference of Undergraduate Research (WorldCUR) taking place in the UK, April 2022, as kindly sponsored by the Department of Sport, Exercise and Nutrition in ATU Galway-Mayo in further recognition of Collette’s significant achievement at the SURE Conference.

Dr Lisa Ryan, Head of the Department of Sport, Exercise & Nutrition at ATU Galway-Mayo recently organised a “Women in Sport’ event as part of Galway Science and Technology Festival and said that ‘we are proud of Colette’s achievement not only in winning this prestigious award but also for shining a light on some of the unique needs of females in sport.”

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