The Women’s Health Podcast

050 - Dr Clare Minahan (PhD) - What Are The Unique Physiological Differences Of Female Athletes?

December 17, 2020

FIFTIETH EPISODE SPECIAL!!

Antony and I were thrilled to talk to Clare Minahan, PhD Scientist and champion for women in sport.

Clare Minahan is an Associate Professor at Griffith University, Queensland Australia, and has led the Griffith Sports Science group since 2002. Clare’s interests are in the advancement of human performance with a key focus on the determinants of performance in female athletes. She has documented unique responses to exercise in female athletes including muscle damage, thermoregulation and immune function. Clare is a founding member of the Australian Institute of Sport’s Female Performance and Health Initiative.

Some of the topics we cover in this episode include:

  • some of the differences between male and female athletes in terms of how they respond to training and recovery
  • how the oral contraceptive pill (OCP) influences things like thermoregulation, immune function and recovery from acute bouts of intense exercise
  • how the hormones fluctuate over the menstrual cycle and how this may influence training choices
  • why training needs to be individualised and based on tracking of the athlete's cycle
  • that around 50% of athletes are on the OCP, so we need to understand better the effects. Clare also discusses the different generations of OCP and acknowledges that these will have different effects on the athlete (there are at least 35 different types of OCP just in Australia!)
  • how female athletes are at a 3x increased risk of ACL injuries. Studies showing that landing strategies seem to changes during teenage years for girls. This could also be related to hormonal changes - there are some studies showing increased risk during late follicular phase- but there is still much more to learn on this. Could also be related to changes in body composition through the teenage years
  • females with higher circulating levels of testosterone. Do they have a competitive advantage?
  • the advantage of having a regular menstrual cycle in terms of giving us a picture of our health. Withdrawal bleed while on OCP is not the same thing.
  • if not able to properly track menstrual cycle due to OCP use, Clare talks about other ways that we can monitor for RED-S (hint: performance, fatigue, mood, immune function)
  • why it's important to get the basics right (sleep, nutrition, stress etc) before manipulating your training around the menstrual cycle

If you would like to get in touch with Clare, you can best contact her on twitter @clareMINAHAN or via the Griffin University website [email protected]

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