FE­MALE MENOPAUSE and the knowl­edge gap

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - NEW FRONTIERS -

As far as we know, there hasn’t been one re­port of a woman hav­ing to stop while jog­ging to pick up her re­pro­duc­tive or­gans even though, as 49-year-old physi­cian Julie Cur­win ob­serves, “Women only a bit older than I am re­mem­ber when they were young be­ing told by doc­tors not to run be­cause their uterus might fall out.”

But there are still many other knowl­edge gaps for fe­male ath­letes as they age. Cur­win, an itu world age­group triathlon cham­pion who lives in Syd­ney, N. S. ex­plains: “The whole idea of the com­pet­i­tive post-menopausal fe­male ath­lete is rel­a­tively new, and the co­hort of women ap­proach­ing and pass­ing through menopause is re­ally the first large group of se­ri­ous life­long en­durance ath­letes to do so.”

How do the po­ten­tial mood swings, de­pres­sion, hot flashes, night sweats, bone den­sity loss and weight gain of menopause af­fect high-per­for­mance ath­letes? What about phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy ( hrt)? At the high­est lev­els of com­pe­ti­tion, some forms of hrt would not be al­lowed un­less an ath­lete ap­plied for a ther­a­peu­tic use ex­emp­tion ( tue), which might be hard to get. “Each case is very in­di­vid­ual,” ex­plains Danielle Côté, a spokesper­son for the Cana­dian Cen­tre for Ethics in Sport.

How­ever, fe­male ath­letes won­der­ing about the pros and cons of hrt find there’s no clin­i­cal re­search eval­u­at­ing whether hrt in­flu­ences an elite menopausal ath­lete’s per­for­mance, and lit­tle re­search on menopausal fe­male ath­letes at all.

This lack of re­search isn’t be­cause sci­en­tific re­searchers don’t care, ex­plains Kealey. Stud­ies on menopause and sport would be ex­pen­sive and re­quire a crit­i­cal mass of fe­male ath­lete sub­jects fol­lowed over a num­ber of years to prop­erly mea­sure out­comes.

So a crit­i­cal mass of older women ath­letes needs to as­sert it­self be­fore im­por­tant ques­tions re­lat­ing to phys­i­ol­ogy and per­for­mance are se­ri­ously ex­plored. Bev Wat­son, 60, shat­tered the Iron­man world record for her age group by 27 min­utes last year in a time of 11:50. Wat­son, of Prid­dis, Alta., ex­plains: “There is a crest of a wave com­ing. As I get older, the women in the age groups be­hind me are faster, and there are many more of them.”

Wat­son races com­pet­i­tively all over the world in triathlon, Spar­tan and other en­durance races. She fig­ured out on her own how to deal with the chal­lenges of menopause, but wishes there was a way to more for­mally share ex­pe­ri­ences and pool knowl­edge. “Triath­letes are very open about their bod­ies and I have a few team­mates I can chat with. But still, I would love to talk to more elite women ath­letes about the ag­ing process. If there was a way we could all com­mu­ni­cate, it would be amaz­ing.”

“The co­hort of women ap­proach­ing and pass­ing through menopause is re­ally the first large group of se­ri­ous life­long en­durance ath­letes to do so” –49-year-old physi­cian Julie Cur­win

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