Unnecessary Frustration Over Menstruation Information


Healthcare officials should have access to athletes’ menstruation information. (Courtesy of Pixabay)

When it comes to the health of high school athletes, it is better to err on the safe side in terms of health data collection, as in: it’s okay for health professionals to have access to private information. However, given the fact that the majority of these athletes are minors, there are, of course, extra measures that must be taken to ensure the athletes medical data remains only in the hands of those who truly need to have it. As such, the recent decision that Florida’s governing body made to remove menstruation questions from high school athletic forms is one with which I do not agree. 

Though it can definitely be uncomfortable for female athletes to have to disclose details about their menstrual cycle, it is absolutely essential for the relevant medical professionals to have access to this data. It is scientifically established and not the slightest bit debatable that irregular menstrual cycles have adverse effects. Additionally, menstruation is a completely normal biological process, one which carries a lot less humiliation and shame than it used to. And, in fact, irregularities of a female athlete’s menstrual cycle or a long pause in the cycle can indicate a number of adverse health conditions and even point to overtraining. As a result, there is simply no reason that this information could ever be classified as irrelevant or unnecessary, because this data paints a clear picture of the female athletes health. 

However, given the political pressure that has been applied to the association to view this through the prism of contentious political issues, it is understandable how the FHSAA reached this decision. Though I myself am in favor of medical privacy whenever possible, there are simply some situations where privacy just does not make sense. And though I can understand how athletes of this age may feel reluctant to share intimate information, the kinds of questions that the form posed were by no means overly invasive. There were a total of five questions, which had already been marked as optional, which attempted to obtain information in regards to the dates and frequency of the individual’s menstrual cycle. Though they are sensitive questions, none of the questions pointed towards any overly invasive data collection.

Understandably, parents, educators and the community have a right to be concerned about their teens’ data and who has access to it.  However, the argument that the FHSAA has no justification for gathering such sensitive data is incorrect. As it stands, the presumption was that other school staff members, such as a coach or sports director, would also have access to this sensitive information if the FHSAA were to enact this menstrual reporting rule. I do not believe this to be completely necessary, however.  Only people with the proper and relevant credentials should be able to view the athletes’ health data. 

Athletes should disclose their data to the relevant medical professionals, but other staff members such as coaches and other school staff members do not have a reason or a need to access this information. It is unclear exactly how many people would have had access to the data had the questions not been struck from the forms, but as long as everyone who could obtain this information was someone who needed it for the health of the athletes, I do not think it should have been such a hot-button issue.

In a day and age in which violations of privacy are frequent, I can completely understand the hesitancy and backlash to these kinds of questions on health clearance forms. If this information did get into the hands of the wrong individuals, it would undoubtedly be incredibly damaging not only to the health of the athletes but to their psychological development. With that being said, in the context of the situation, there is simply no reason to assume the information would be used in a negative way. High school sports are rigorous, and athletes are always at risk the longer that they continue to play their sport. Therefore, questions like these may feel uncomfortable, but they are undoubtedly necessary to ensuring a long, productive and healthy athletic career.

Carolyn Branigan, FCRH ’24, is an English and film & television major from Tinton Falls, N.J.