Menstruation and sport – no top team

By Sarah RaparoliLex Kleren Switch to German for original article

Although menstruation is not a new topic in competitive sport, it is not talked about much. Especially as intensive sport can lead to a lack of periods and bring health risks along the way. Athletes and experts report.

Top athletes are disciplined, train hard and give everything and more to perform at their best. They train for competitions not just for hours, days or months, but for years. But any preparation can be ruined by ─ some would call it a small thing ─ one particular week in the month: menstruation. Indisposition, abdominal cramps, headaches. All of these can affect a person's well-being. And yet, they still have to perform.

Anyone who has experienced these symptoms knows that sport under these circumstances is anything but pleasant. The issue of menstruation in sport caused a recent stir when 19-year-old tennis player Qinwen Zheng said after losing the French Open: "I wish I was a man on the court and didn't have to go through this". She had experienced terrible stomach pains, which had greatly affected her performance. Very understandable for some people. Lis Fautsch is one of them.

Rescheduling the period

Lis Fautsch started fencing at the age of 13. A short time later, the first international tournaments took place, followed by World Cups. "At the age of 25, after university, I joined the army", the section for top athletes. "During almost ten years I was in Heidenheim and trained together with the German team." She was at a very high level until 2021 and "after I failed to qualify for the Olympics, I stopped". The 35-year-old was one of Luxembourg's top athletes for many years. She reports that her period stopped for a whole year. "My gynaecologist told me that the intensive sport could be a cause. And so could the pill." Lis says she sometimes took the pill without pausing ─ "even for three or four months in a row" ─ to avoid menstruation and period pains during tournaments.

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