Sports-Global research group hoping to fill IOC void on female athlete welfare


MANCHESTER, England, June 29 (Reuters) – A lack of information on female injuries and illness from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has prompted a group of more than two dozen researchers to fill it with what they hope will be a “game-changer” for female athlete welfare.
In a paper published recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, the 25 experts identified 10 areas of female health that can affect sport including menstrual and gynaecological health, pregnancy, breast feeding and mental health in the sport environment, among others.
The paper was in response to the IOC’s 2020 consensus statement on recording and reporting data on injuries.
“Consensus statements work really well for (men’s) sports because usually it’s men that create the systems, they’re working in men’s sport, and lo and behold, it gets used more often in the men’s side of the game,” said Isabel Moore, an associate professor with Cardiff Metropolitan University’s School of Sport and Health Sciences.
“There’s no mention of the female athlete, or the kind of nuances around things like the menstrual cycle or pregnancy and postpartum. In a general system, it wouldn’t even be recorded for example that someone would be pregnant or in the postpartum phase. Something that I would think is quite simple and straightforward doesn’t get captured.”
Moore said discussions around “taboo” topics such as the menstrual cycle and incontinence in women, “which often gets joked about,” need to be normalised.
The health of female athletes is a hot topic, amplified by the number of serious knee injuries ahead of the month-long Women’s World Cup soccer tournament starting on July 20 that have prompted players to call for more research on the topic.
Recording data on female-specific injuries in an archaic system, Moore said, was not even possible until recently.
“Breast injuries have not typically been reported because up until 2020 the breast region wasn’t part of the coding systems used to record injuries,” she said. “So you literally couldn’t input a breast injury even if you wanted to.
“We’re a long way off from having systems that fit for female athletes. . . What a lot of people have tended to do is take the system implemented in the men’s side of the game and just duplicate it in the women’s side.”
The IOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Moore co-led the paper with Evert Verhagen, a professor at Amsterdam UMC. Researchers from 13 countries – the United Kingdom, Norway, Netherlands, Canada, United States, Austria, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Qatar, Australia, France, Portugal – contributed.
The hope is that the IOC eventually updates their 2020 consensus statement to better reflect women.
“But for me, it’s more that sports start adopting it in what they’re doing,” Moore said.
She has already implemented it in the Welsh women’s rugby team, with who she works directly, and co-author Kay Crossley is already “implementing bits” in Australia.
“So organically, we’re hoping that any sport that does injury surveillance will implement what we’re recommending.”
Reporting by Lori Ewing; Editing by Ken Ferris
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