June 21, 2024

Women make fewer mistakes and have better mental agility while on their period, even though they feel worse than at any other time during their menstrual cycle, research suggests.

The research, carried out by the UCL Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health (ISEH), found that women’s reaction times, accuracy and attention to detail are increased during menstruation, challenging current hypotheses about how women perform in sports during their period.

the study room, published in the journal Neuropsychologiainvolved analyzing data from 241 participants (including 96 who were male and 47 women who did not menstruate regularly due to their contraception, for comparative purposes) completing a battery of cognitive tests, two weeks apart, and collecting reaction time and error data.

Participants also recorded their moods and filled out a questionnaire about their symptoms, while period tracking apps were used to estimate what phase of their cycle the participants were in when they took the tests. The tests covered reaction times, attention, ability to relate to visual information, and anticipation of when something might happen, and were designed to mimic mental processes during sports.

There was no group difference in reaction times and accuracy between the male and female participants, but the women who menstruated regularly were found to perform better during their period compared to any other phase of their menstrual cycle, exhibiting faster reaction times and fewer errors make. . This is despite the participants reporting feeling worse during their period and believing it negatively affected their performance.

Mary Fowler, of the Matildas (the Australian women’s soccer team), is one of the players who spoke out about the impact of periods on their performance. Photo: Brenton Edwards/AFP/Getty Images

Dr Flaminia Ronca, lead author of the study, from UCL’s Department of Surgery and Interventional Science and ISEH, said the finding that women performed better during their periods was “surprising”, and could change the way female athletes’ performance is considered. taken in relation to their menstrual cycle.

She added: “What is surprising is that the participants’ performance was better when they were on their period, which challenges what women, and perhaps society more generally, assume about their abilities at this particular time of the month.

“I hope that this will provide the basis for positive conversations between coaches and athletes about perceptions and performance: how we feel does not always reflect how we perform.”

Dr Megan Lowery, an author of the study from UCL Surgery and Interventional Science and ISEH, said: “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence from women that they may feel clumsy just before ovulation, for example, which is supported by our findings here. My hope is that if women understand how their brains and bodies change during the month, it will help them adjust.

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“Although much more research is needed in this area, these findings are an important first step in understanding how women’s cognition affects their athletic performance at different points during their cycle, which will hopefully lead to positive conversations between coaches and athletes about performance. and will facilitate well-being. “

Prof Paul Burgess, a senior author of the study from UCL’s Institute for Cognitive Neurosciencesaid that the idea for the study came from talking to female soccer players and their coaches.

He said: “We’ve created bespoke cognitive tests to try to mimic the demands placed on the brain at the points in the game where they’ve told us injuries and timing issues. occurs at certain times of the menstrual cycle.

“As suggested by what the soccer players told us, the data suggests that menstruating women – whether they are athletes or not – tend to differ in their performance at certain stages of the cycle. As a neuroscientist, I am amazed that we do not already know more about this, and hope that our study will help motivate increased interest in this important aspect of sports medicine.”

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