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Chelsea FC Women first football club to tailor training program around menstrual cycles

Targeting prime performance and decreased injury risk

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Chelsea Women v Aston Villa Women - FA Women’s Continental League Cup: Quarter-Final Photo by Harriet Lander - Chelsea FC/Chelsea FC via Getty Images

Understanding athletes and how to help them achieve peak performance is standard practice in men’s sports. Unfortunately, that’s nowhere near the standard in women’s sports.

Chelsea — yes, in this the year of our Lord 2020 — is seeking to lead the revolution to change that.

This season, Chelsea have implemented a specialized app to help tailor training programs around players’ menstrual cycles. Because women’s bodies go through many internal and external changes during menstruation, customizing nutrition and training programs around the phases of the menstrual cycle can help improve performance and reduce the risk of injury.

“It is fair to say, I am a female coach in an industry where women have always been treated like small men. The application of anything from rehab to strength and conditioning to tactical all come from the basis of what men do.

“The starting point is that we are women and, ultimately, we go through something very different to men on a monthly basis.”

–Emma Hayes; source: The Telegraph

In February of 2019, Hayes met with the developer of the FitrWoman app, Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, to discuss her work and research in this area. Since implementing the app in August, Dr. Bruinvels has been visiting Chelsea every couple of weeks to instruct the staff and players on how to use the app, and how to parse and analyze the information it collects to develop customized methods to improve a player’s performance.

Because of the personal nature of the app, it is not a requirement, and is only used if a player consents to their data being shared with Dr. Bruinvels and the Chelsea coaching staff. For those who choose to use the app, the data collected can be turned into real-world benefits in injury avoidance as well.

“The menstrual cycle is an inflammatory process and excess inflammation can result in an injury. It’s not solely down to high levels of oestrogen, but tracking the cycle is also very important in terms of bone-injury risk.”

–Dr. Bruinvels; source: The Telegraph

Women’s sports are so often caught in frequent battles for the right to exist and be taken seriously that it has taken this long for a club to put in the extra effort to better understand their athletes’ bodies, and how best to guide each of them toward prime performance and decreased risk of injury. (You know, the same thing that’s done at nearly every level of men’s sports.)

Chelsea are one of the rare teams in England Europe that put significant resources into our women’s team on the pitch, and now, away from the bright lights of matchday as well.

“We view ourselves, in a lot of ways, as leaders of the game and it would be amazing if others started doing this.”

“These players are going to be the first generation of women who are well educated about their menstrual cycle and they will spread that knowledge as far as they possibly can and we hope that becomes a culture within every football club in the world, so everybody can cope better with their menstrual cycles.”

–Emma Hayes; source: ChelseaFC

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