The last taboo in sport

Mr Michael Dooley, one of the UK’s leading fertility experts and consultant gynaecologist, today delivered a seminar on the impact of menstruation on women in sport, as part of the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine Conference on ‘the female athlete’ at the Royal College of physicians in London.

As lead gynaecologist for London 2012, Mr Dooley has a special interest in sports gynaecology and was recently appointed to a working group for the International Olympic Committee.

Mr Dooley says, “I consider it my mission to remove the taboo around periods and their effect on female athletes. It is incredibly important to raise awareness around the impact of menstruation on women’s training, performance, and their general health. I want to help women win gold”

20/03/2015 Mr Michael Dooley, one of the UK’s leading fertility experts and Consultant Gynaecologist, today delivered an insightful speech entitled ‘To bleed or not to bleed’ at the British Association of Sport and Exercise Medicine.

 Mr Dooley, Consultant Gynaecologist at King Edward VII’s Hospital, considers it his mission to raise awareness around a topic from which many shy away and to encourage more female participation in sport. PMS, period pain, and bleeding may have a substantial impact upon females’ participation in sport, yet the topic is largely unaddressed in the sporting world.

 In January, British tennis champion Heather Watson drew the world’s attention to the issue when she attributed her loss at the Australian Open to her period. After experiencing dizziness, nausea and low energy levels, Watson broke sports’ final taboo in addressing menstruation and the female athlete.

Mr Dooley says, “I think it is absolutely vital that we, as a community, talk about this, as it is something that affects every woman in sport. I practice an individual approach and full discussion needs to take place with the woman as to whether she wants to bleed or not to bleed. We want women to compete safely and to prevent long term injury. ”

Mr Dooley has treated women from various countries, and in his talk today he discussed the various legal obstacles to prescribing treatment and the issues around doping.

44% of the Olympians at London 2012 were female, yet only 7% of newspaper articles focused on female athletes. Mr Dooley aims to change this and to raise the profile of women in sport. He sees raising the issue of menstruation as a key part of this process.

During today’s speech, Mr Dooley explained that an Olympic gold medal has been won by a female at every stage of the menstrual cycle – pre, during, and post. However, he also reminded the audience that while attempting to train or perform, the menstrual cycle can not only have a physical impact, but has a real emotional effect, causing immense anxiety for athletes.

Mr Dooley says, “A woman’s period does not need to be an obstacle to success, but it is certainly something that needs to be talked about more so that women are aware of all their options.

Mr Dooley also spoke about the issue of overtraining and menstruation. Women who overtrain and have low body fat are likely to stop menstruating, which can have a devastating effect on their ability to perform. Mr Dooley believes that it is all about finding the right balance for the individual.

Mr Michael Dooley has just been appointed to a working group for the International Olympic Committee, beginning in September. He also leads the Poundbury Fertility Suite at the King Edward VII’s Hospital in London.


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The last taboo in sport