Research and Orreco: Menstrual cycle screening methods

Lucy Lomax

March 9, 2023


In this blog series we look at Orreco’s involvement in different areas of research being done around the topic of the menstrual cycle and the female athlete.

Next up is PhD student Chelsea Oester who is studying at Western Sydney University, Australia.

Chelsea is studying methods for screening female soccer players for menstrual cycle related symptoms and how this can be systemised to female soccer leagues globally. The study is being funded by Western SydneyUniversity, FIFA and Orreco.  

Chelsea explains what first sparked her interest in the area of the female athlete:

“I used to work for FIFA in the medical department and at one time we did a study of females in sport and I began to see there wasn’t a lot that had been done. The more I read about it, the more passionate I got!

“There are so many questions we don’t have any answers to yet.The world has been historically more focused on men as it’s less complicated as they don’t have hormonal fluctuations.”

Chelsea explains her study and what she hopes to achieve.

“My main aim is to reduce the dropout rate of girls and women playing football and increase the awareness of the challenges that women can face when it comes to sport. The symptoms some players might have due to their menstrual cycle is just one piece of the puzzle. But my goal is to increase awareness and education around this topic.

“A lot of studies have been published based on surveys where players are asked if they believe their menstrual cycle impacts performance, but there is quite a lot of bias involved with that style of questioning and most players would only remember their worst symptoms or the ones they’ve just had.  

“I am working on the development and validation of a screening tool related to menstrual cycle symptoms and have had to do a lot of reading in this area. You have different steps to follow as the screening tools needs to be tested and have a series of different validation steps to ensure it is measuring what you say it is measuring. If this all goes to plan, I hope it can be rolled out to FIFA member associations and used every pre-season by players from all around the world.

“Overall, I hope my research increases awareness that if women don’t have their cycle, or have excessive negative symptoms, they should look for help. Furthermore, I hope that other researchers will use the screening tool to plan interventions and come up with recommendations for players.

Chelsea explains what the research process will involve.

“My study will involve working with football teams throughout an entire season where after every game and training session they will have to report their symptoms. To get meaningful findings, I need to build trust with players and allow them to feel confident that they can report their symptoms without being scared of any repercussions, such as not being selected to play.

“The study will primarily focus on players in Australia at different standards of the game, so that the tool can be used by professional players and also amateur players who don’t have access to a team physician.  

On Chelsea’s research, Dr Georgie Bruinvels, Female AthleteLead at Orreco said:

"Our experience over the past decade is that we still have a long way to go to help female athletes. We have an opportunity to accelerate understanding of barriers like negative symptoms, worrying injury patterns, and to work out the best mitigating or protective strategies to reach for.  

“We see Chelsea’s PhD work with FIFA as being really important to improve the quality of the data that support staff and researchers can work with and therefore the lessons that can be learnt.”

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