Sadly, the answer is yes. However with the right information we can mitigate this risk.
I remember being at school and the menstrual cycle being brushed over. Most of us girls would say anything to the doctor to be put on the pill so we didn’t have to think about it. We could manipulate our cycle and not have to be self conscious about when she who should not be named would come.
BUT, if only I could sit down with my younger self and empower her with her cycle. Educate her of the benefits that hormones have on our body. Yes, there is absolutely a time and place for contraception, the pill, mirina, patch, jab and bar etc. Especially with those struggling with more complicated disorders like endometriosis and PCOS. However, for most of us taking the little pill shouldn’t be something we strive for, for convenience.
This blog is going to go through some of the negative effects of puberty and what happens to our athletes. The aim is to provide you with the information to help you support your girls through this scary and vulnerable time.
About a year before puberty there will become slight increases of estrogen, progesterone, luteinising hormone, and follicular stimulating hormone which will create the menstrual cycle.
It’s at this age where a behavioural transition starts to occur. Boys get a little more aggressive, angry, girls depressed, anxious, and sensitive. This is because of the increase in estrogen exposure to the brain and serotonin receptors.
Growth and bones:
Boys bones become dense first and then longer, whereas girls will become longer first and then fill with minerals to make them dense giving females increased risk of broken bones.
Girls’ hips become wider, the Q-angle between their hips and knees increase – this has its own neuromuscular effect (decreasing speed/power/jumping/stroke/gait patterns) and increases the risk of ACL injuries in females.
Boys become leaner and stronger. Girls have a change in their fat:lean mass ratio. Belly fat increases. Body composition will change and if unaware, girls may choose to follow diets (intermittent fasting/ keto/ low carb) which can have their own detrimental effects on hormones. So please watch out for this next blog if this concerns you.
Boys increase haemoglobin and girls have higher risk of anemia.
The take home is communication. This is a really vulnerable time for our young female athletes, and it’s where most of them decide that sport is no longer for them. They have to understand that their performance may be affected but it is a TEMPORARY BLIMP in time that can be mitigated with the right types of training.
Concerns during puberty:
Decrease in speed, power and agility
Knee instability and decreased efficiency in gait/ running mechanics / swim mechanics
Limb changes – longer limbs – changes centre of gravity → leading to feeling uncoordinated.
Implications to performance:
Poor performance → some try to increase training → this will only enhance the poor motor patterns, need to scale back the intensity and work on technique/ skill focused drills.
TEMPORARY decreased coordination + balance
Again communication. If trained correctly during this time performance will be temporary!! It’s during this time where the focus should be more on technique, skills, neuromuscular control and motor pattern instead of trying to hit top end intensities. We need to create better motor control patterns so when the time comes the girls can then push the intensity hard with proper technique.
Go back to the foundations. Work with your physical therapist. Both Rachel and I are working with a number of adolescent girls and boys to assist in injury prevention while going through puberty.
It’s a team approach to educating and empowering these girls with the skills to understand their body and hormones.