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Does Menstruation Affect Athletic Performance?

Athletic events are scheduled without regard to whether a woman will menstruate when she competes. Most world-class female athletes feel that menstruation does not interfere with their strength, speed, coordination or endurance. However, a higher body temperature after an egg is released during the last half of the menstrual cycle could cause the heart to work harder to pump extra blood from your hot muscles to skin to dissipate heat.

Most female athletes do not need to manipulate their menstrual cycles, but some women feel that they can compete at a higher level when they are not menstruating. They can take birth control pills for several months prior to their championship events and stop taking the pills 10 days before their competition. They will usually start menstruating within three days and stop menstruating before they compete. An alternate method is to take progesterone, such as 5 mg of medroxyprogesterone acetate, for 10 days, from 20 to 10 days before competition.

1,2) Hessemer and Bruck: J Appl Physiol. 59(6):1911-1917, 1985 and also 1902-1910.

3) Med Sci Spts and Ex. 1990 (Oct);22(5):575-580.

4) Mirkin and Shangold Women and Exercise; Physiology and Sports Medicine. F.A. Davis co, P 193

Checked 3/31/11

May 12th, 2013
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About the Author: Gabe Mirkin, MD

Sports medicine doctor, fitness guru and long-time radio host Gabe Mirkin, M.D., brings you news and tips for your healthful lifestyle. A practicing physician for more than 50 years and a radio talk show host for 25 years, Dr. Mirkin is a graduate of Harvard University and Baylor University College of Medicine. He is board-certified in four specialties: Sports Medicine, Allergy and Immunology, Pediatrics and Pediatric Immunology. The Dr. Mirkin Show, his call-in show on fitness and health, was syndicated in more than 120 cities. Read More
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