When high-level sports cause menarche delays for young athletes

To what extent can high-level sports disrupt an athlete’s menstrual cycle? The amount of training time associated with the intensity required at high levels, and this can actually cause the athlete to have primary amenorrhea, in other words, a delay in the onset of the first cycle, from the onset of adolescence. Menstruation.

“The arrival of menarche requires a certain percentage of fat, which is a store of energy. If you don’t get it and it’s too low, puberty will be delayed.” Carole Maître, an obstetrician and gynecologist at the National Institute of Sport Professional Performance (Insep), trains future French champions, explains.

“This is especially true in sports that develop before puberty, such as figure skating and gymnastics.Carole Maître continues. At the age of 9-10, we are already at the top level. These are also areas where thinness is a factor in performance. “ Sports such as hurdling, marathon, triathlon, and even judo,“If you need very little fat to be more efficient, it can lead to cycle disorders.”..

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Gymnast Marine Boyer, Bronze and silver medalists at the 2018 European Championship All-Round Team Tournament,“Gym tycoon” with a doctor around 14 years old From Insep Explained to him “It was” normal “at this age to have no period. Because my period is high, it comes when I take a vacation or quit gymnastics. “ She is in a special situation One of the first girls to menstruate in the pole she trained.

“The menarche wasn’t too late because I had a shoulder injury that year and stopped for a year. Eight months after the stop, my rules came.”

Marine Boyer, gymnast

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On the contrary, French six-time champion skater Maé-Bérénice Méité admits that her sports coach has never guided her on this subject. “Despite the great concern about my sport, we received no special support on this issue.”

Maé-Bérénice Meite will showcase her free program at the European Figure Skating Championships on January 25, 2020 in Steiermarkhalle, Austria.  (ULRIK PEDERSEN / AFP)

To try free speech in her community, the skater published a video on her YouTube channel two years ago that collected testimonials from athletes about the menstrual cycle. “”My video explains that the pair skater had no period until he was 18 years old. I thought it was weird at the time, but I didn’t want to talk because there wasn’t much information. She was a little embarrassed. ” Reported by Maé-Bérénice Méité.

Should all amenorrhea cause anxiety?No, answer the obstetrician and gynecologist Carol Master: “A delay of one or two years has no effect, but beyond 16 to 17 years, caution is required. Emphasize the specialists who follow many athletes at Insep. At this age, a teenager builds bone mass in her skeleton. And it will follow her life. And for that, she needs estrogen. ”

With the advent of the first period, the body naturally produces this hormone thanks to the ovaries. If you do not trigger the menstrual cycle, your body will not produce estrogen and will not be able to participate in bone building.Ultimately, the disability caused by this long-term amenorrhea “”It increases the risk of stress fractures and can induce fatigue at the end of training. ” More importantly, says Carol Matele. In other words, an injury.

Beyond this disorder, some athletes may experience secondary amenorrhea, in other words, the lack of a period of several months after the establishment of a regular menstrual cycle. “The lack of a period of more than three months is essentially related to the fact that the athlete’s energy storage is no longer sufficient to ensure a reproductive cycle with hormone secretion by the ovaries.” Develop Carole Maître.

Marine Boyer, a gymnast in the final of the European Gymnastics Championships, held in Szczecin, Poland on April 14, 2019.  & Nbsp; (MAXPPP)

Why did this energy reserve become inadequate? “Because his energy consumption may have increased Answer the Insep obstetrician and gynecologist. For example, you can continue an intensive course without adjusting his nutritional intake, or look for weight loss and make it part of a more favorable category for him.

After a certain number of months without menstruation, estrogen levels become too low. Again, there is an increased risk of injury. In these situations, Carol Matele calls on the athlete to consult an obstetrician / gynecologist. “You really have to consider that regulating them brings metabolic benefits to athletes.”

The support provided to athletes with primary or secondary amenorrhea is personalized. Indeed, sportswomen who play in group and individual sports do not have the same restrictions. “If the athlete is part of a team, Difficult to ask him to reduce his trainingcorrect Carol Master. Therefore, we rather try to find the most suitable solution for his case: by hormonal management, and nutritional and psychological monitoring.

This accompaniment also allows young sportswomen to capture and rediscover their new female body according to their respective stories. Knowledge that can only be gained on the side of performance.