Friday 18 August 2023, 04:00

FIFA Launches the Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance Project: Empowering Women in Sports

  • Project has been in gestation for the last two years

  • The initiative recognises the uniqueness of female physiology

  • More than 20 global experts have collaborated with FIFA to address crucial challenges in women’s health

FIFA, in collaboration with leading experts from around the globe, has today proudly unveiled the FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project. Over the past two years, this pioneering initiative of FIFA's Women’s Football Division has been dedicated to addressing crucial challenges in women's health within the realm of sports, with a vision to elevate women's participation, education, and performance to new horizons. In the current landscape of women’s health in sports, the urgency to develop this area is evident. The FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project is firmly committed to dismantling barriers that have previously impeded the realisation of women's full potential in sports.

FIFA Chief Women's Football Officer Sarai Bareman during a Technical Study Group interview in Brisbane / Meanjin,

Sarai Bareman, FIFA Chief Women’s Football Officer: "We are excited about our new initiative, which is dedicated to enhancing the holistic development of every female footballer. "Our goal is to prioritize the health, well-being, and performance of these athletes, while also advancing the understanding and engagement of women and girls in football across all levels of the game. This initiative reflects our commitment to creating a thriving and inclusive environment for women's football, fostering growth, and expanding opportunities for all."

The project's core objectives encompass:

1. Addressing Education Gaps The lack of education and awareness surrounding women's physiology, health, wellbeing, and performance is a persistent issue. This project strives to educate, empower, and equip women with the knowledge they need to excel. 2. Empowering through Knowledge Fostering a profound understanding of female physiology to liberate women from constraints rooted in training paradigms designed for male athletes. 3. Combating Puberty-Related Dropout Acknowledging the unique challenges adolescent female athletes face and offering support structures to ensure their continued participation. 4. Optimising training amid Hormonal Changes Recognising the impact of hormonal fluctuations on performance and devising tailored training methodologies to empower female athletes to reach their peak potential. 5. Breaking Barriers and Taboos Confronting societal, cultural, and health-related barriers that have limited women’s involvement in sports, paving the way for inclusivity. 6. Enhancing Coach Education Integrating women’s health and well-being education into coaching curricula to equip coaches with the necessary understanding to guide female players. 7. Promoting Access to Screening and Monitoring Tools Providing essential resources for screening and monitoring to enhance female athletes' wellbeing and performance. 8. Championing Research and Resources Bridging the research and resource gap for female players, ensuring they have access to evidence-based support. 9. Creating Awareness and Education Raising awareness and educating stakeholders about women’s health, wellbeing, and performance to foster a more inclusive environment.

The Menstrual Cycle's Impact on Performance: A Focus on Evidence

Dr Dawn Scott, a leading expert, emphasises the significance of this initiative: "For too long, we have applied research on white male players and used the evidence to train female players. This project is the starting point to educate and empower players, coaches, and support staff on how to optimally train women as women, ensuring health, wellbeing, and performance of female players."

Dr Dawn Scott, VP Director of Performance, Medical and Innovation at Washington Spirit

The project's evidence-based approach underscores the significant impact of the menstrual cycle on women’s participation and performance: • 95% of players experience daily menstrual cycle symptoms. • 1 in 3 players have adjusted training due to symptoms. • 66% feel symptoms affect their performance. • 90% of players do not communicate menstrual cycle issues with coaches. • 41% of players have encountered heavy bleeding. • 85% perceive insufficient menstrual cycle knowledge. • 42-47.1% of athletes use hormonal contraception, and 45% use analgesics for menstrual symptoms.

Three Pillars for Transformation

The project operates under three interconnected pillars: 1. Awareness: Sharing best practices, fostering understanding, and providing a learning platform for health, wellbeing, and performance in sports. 2. Research: Encouraging knowledge expansion and exchange through research to inform decisions and advance the professionalisation of women's sports. 3. Education: Developing resources and educational frameworks to cultivate improved environments for growth and performance among coaches, players, and multidisciplinary teams.

Dr Georgie Bruinvels during a FIFA Coach Mentorship Programme Workshop

"By learning more about the individualized response to hormonal changes across the female lifecycle and training women as women, we can truly unlock the full potential of female athletes" added Dr. Georgie Bruinvels, another leading expert involved in the project. The FIFA Women’s Health, Wellbeing, and Performance project is poised to drive transformative change by addressing complex topics such as, supporting players through pregnancy and understanding the menstrual cycle's impact. The initiative recognises the uniqueness of female physiology and is committed to providing women in football with the attention, resources, and knowledge they deserve.

Expert NameOccupation
Dr Deidre AndersonAustralian academic administrator, sports executive, sports transitions specialist and coach
Dr Amy BenderSenior Research Scientist and Adjunct Assistant Professor of Kinesiology, University of Calgary
Emma BrockwellSpecialist Pelvic Health Physiotherapist
Dr Georgie Bruinvels Research Scientist and female lead Orreco, Research Associate St Mary’s University
Lissette CornejoMS, RD, CSSD, LDN, CPT Performance Nutrition Coordinator at Milwaukee Brewers
Ivi CasagrandeHigh Performance Coach Brazil Women’s National Team, Sports Science Lead Lewes FC Women’s
Dr Dohi Michiko (MD PhD)Deputy Dept Director of Sport Medical Centre, Japan Institute of Sports Sciences, Director of Japan FA Medical Clinic
Dr Margie Davenport Associate Professor, Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport, and Recreation, University of Alberta
Dr Sinead DufourAssociate Clinical Professor, Rehabilitation Science Faculty of Health Science, McMaster University
Dr Anthony C HackneyProfessor University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Department of Exercise and Sport Science with a joint management Department of Nutrition-School of Public Health
Shona Halson Deputy Director of the SPRINT Research Centre at ACU’s School of Behavioural and Health Sciences
Dr Amal HassanSports & Exercise Science Medicine Musculoskeletal Consultant specialising in female health, Institute of Sports Exercise Science & Health
Professor Glyn HowatsonProfessor in Human & Applied Physiology at Northumbria University
Dr Johanna Ihalainen (PhD)Senior Lecturer Sports and Health Science, University of Jyväskylä
Michelle LyonsPhysiotherapist Specialising in pelvic health (bladder, bowel, sexual issues), spinal/bone health, oncology rehab
Dr Ritva Mikkonen Senior Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, University of Jyväskylä
Dr Nonhlanhla MkumbuziResearch and Lecture Northumbria University
Dr Sophia NimphiusProfessor of Human Performance and Pro Vice Chancellor, Edith Cowan University
Dr Charlie Pedlar Professor/Reader Applied Sport and Exercise Science St Mary’s University and Associate Professor at UCL, London
Dr Dawn ScottVP Director of Performance, Medical and Innovation Washington Spirit
Dr. Holly Silvers-GranelliResearch Director, Major League Soccer’s (MLS) Medical Assessment Research Committee, Orthopaedic Practice Owner, Velocity Physical Therapy, Inc. Outpatient Orthopaedic Sports Medical and Health Sciences
Dr Abbie Smith-RyanProfessor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Glenn WarryFootball Coaches Australia (FCA) Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Chair - Centre for Elite Performance, Expertise and Training Advisory Board, Macquarie University