Manchester City Women has partnered with scientists from the English Institute of Sport in a “world-class” research collaboration to accelerate understanding of the health of female athletes.
First-team players, including captain Steph Houghton, used simple saliva tests that can provide accurate information on hormone levels in just 30 minutes.
Hormonix, provided by the English Institute of Sport (EIS) and developed by engineers at Mint Diagnostics, allows athletes and coaches to tailor training, nutrition and rest periods to menstrual cycles.
“For us as athletes it’s so important that you know your own body,” Houghton said. Sky Sports News.
“Everyone is different first and foremost when it comes to your menstrual cycle and it affects people differently. For me personally, I’m probably a little more tired around this time, your back a little bit, you. might just be more tired in general or not as turned on as you normally would be.
“The way the game is played, especially women’s football, reaches that high level where all those little details are going to count to win leagues and win trophies and the Champions League.
“I think we have to try to get away from the fact that it was potentially a taboo subject, we want to embrace it and use it to improve our performance on and off the pitch.”
Previously, hormone levels had to be tested using blood samples which are then sent to a lab for analysis, with athletes having to wait several days or weeks to receive their results.
Menstrual cycles and hormones can have a potentially significant impact on an athlete’s performance in competition and training, as well as on susceptibility to injury.
Some US studies suggest that women are up to eight times more likely to have an ACL injury than men, and that women are more at risk in the days before ovulation.
Arsenal midfielder Jordan Nobbs missed the 2019 World Cup after breaking his ACL and believes his period was a “big factor” in the injury.
It is hoped that Manchester City’s involvement in the project will help make the prevalence of such injuries a thing of the past.
Richard Burden, Co-Head of Female Athlete Health at EIS, said Sky Sports News: “Society tells us that we need to better support the health of female athletes.
“One of the fundamental barriers for us to support athletes is understanding the female menstrual cycle and the barriers to understanding the menstrual cycle are actually being able to understand hormones frequently enough to paint a picture.
“Hormonix is going to completely change that. Basically what it does is take a big lab kit, miniaturize it on a stick so that we can measure real-time hormone samples in a non-invasive way.
“The major hormones of the menstrual cycle – estrogen, progesterone – underpin virtually all biological systems that impact women’s health and performance, so they are vital.”
Along with the collaboration with Manchester City Women, EIS tested the technology on 15 elite athletes in eight Olympic and Paralympic sports, as part of UK Sport’s high performance program.
Modern British pentathlete Jess Varley was one of those who took part in the trial and finally believes that understanding her menstrual cycle has raised huge concerns.
“The two sports of mine that are affected the most are running and fencing and for totally different reasons. Running I have a few days where I just feel bloated and sluggish, just heavy I guess .
“And then fencing is more of a mental impact. I find my decision making is a bit slower and when you’re in the middle of a fencing competition that’s not what you want.
“Since using Hormonix I have been able to confidently change my diet to minimize symptoms. Six months ago my symptoms were terrible, I had cramps and bloating as well as my mental side and something as simple and easy as changing the diet has meant i am almost symptom free now.
“I can train all month and don’t have to worry about when a competition falls in my cycle.”
The health of female athletes has been a priority for EIS since before the Rio Olympics in 2016 and the development of Hormonix follows the launch of the SmartHER campaign in 2019, aimed at opening conversations between athletes and their coaches on the menstrual cycle and other areas of the woman. physiology and psychology.
The pandemic halted the deployment of technology in time for the Tokyo Games, but hopefully for the Paris Games in 2024, it will be part of the mainstream – not only for athletes but for the general population as well.
“Elite sport is a bit like an incubator for this type of work, but the insight and knowledge we gain from it is also transferable to society at large,” adds Dr Burden.
“So the work starts here, but hopefully it filters through and has a much wider general societal impact.”