CQUni academic helps AIS plan for ways for female athletes to prepare for elite competitions

31 March 2021

CQUniversity exercise science expert Dr Melanie Hayman has provided valuable advice on the challenges faced by female elite athletes during an Australian Institute of Sport-led workshop in Canberra recently.

The two-day workshop was organised with a focus on the Paris Olympic and Paralympic cycle' those in professional and semi-professional sports' as well as athletes involved in various pathways programs with the theme' 'The Time Is Now'.

Dr Hayman was one of eight experts who spoke at the workshop and she highlighted critical gaps in our knowledge and understanding of female elite athletes during pregnancy and the postpartum period.

"(These gaps) all of which have significant impacts on their performance' including hormones' the menstrual cycle' pregnancy and postpartum' pelvic floor and breast health'" she said.

"The AIS heard from all the experts and will determine a research agenda for female athletes leading into the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic cycle and beyond with the ultimate goal of improving our competitive edge."

Worskhop organiser Dr Mark Osborne said he was contracted to work on developing resources (such as infographics and presentations) for the Female Performance & Health Initiative (FPHI).

"We wanted to get a representation of academic expertise across some of the key areas impacting women in elite sport. There is a lack of research focussing on female athletes and Dr Hayman's work was identified as critical in what does exist in the published literature regarding exercise and pregnancy related themes'" he said.

"Dr Hayman's presentation was excellent. She highlighted the lack of research in the area and also some of the logistical and ethical challenges faced with undertaking research in the area. This was critical as the next steps in the FPHI project are developing a research strategy and agenda' so understanding the issues and why some work hasn't yet been done will shape the way the strategy evolves as we identify needs and opportunities.

"As a result' we will ultimately pull together best practice guidelines for organisations' clubs' staff' and athletes' so female athletes can be effectively monitored and supported in their endeavours. Hopefully' this will also translate into more athletes returning to elite sport following childbirth."