(Research Results) Breaking the Barriers: Periods and Girls' Sports Participation

Recently, we conducted a survey with Lavatribe and gathered 2302 responses from girls across Australia. Their answers revealed the impact of puberty, specifically menstruation, on girls’ participation in sports.

The survey highlights the significant impact puberty, specifically menstruation, has on girls' participation in sports, with an alarming 63.9% reporting to have quit or avoided sport or physical activity due to their periods. Learn which sports are the most affected, what girls' main period worries are and who they feel they can turn to for support.

Curb Quitting with Open Dialogue and Adaptability

The study sheds light on the high avoidance rates in sports that require participants to wear body hugging or short uniforms. Among these, swimming tops the list with 67.6% (994 girls) admitting to skipping the sport during their period. Gymnastics, dancing, and netball follow suit with 35.1% (517 girls), 28.4% (418 girls), and 25% (368 girls) respectively. On the other hand, sports such as cricket, hockey, Aussie Rules, and tennis demonstrated lower avoidance rates.

While one might be tempted to make assumptions about higher participation rates as the main reason for avoidance of these activities, it is important to recognise that their uniforms present an additional challenge for young girls coming into puberty and experiencing menstruation. Periods bring enough apprehension at this age with all that goes on in the body, and revealing uniforms can add to the overall feeling of insecurity and embarrassment.
For most surveyed, menstrual cramps were the leading cause of avoidance of sports, which was identified by an overwhelming 70.6% (or 1039) of the surveyed girls.

Another key factor that contributes to the girls' reluctance to engage in sports during menstruation is fatigue and tiredness, with 67.4% (or 991) of surveyed girls citing this as a discouraging element. This exhaustion comes as a result of the hormonal fluctuations experienced during the menstrual cycle, which can lead to a reduced level of energy and stamina. 

Which Products Are Girls Using to Manage Their Period?

Among the 1,192 girls (81%) who stated they use the same product to manage their periods on a daily basis as well as during sports activities, disposable pads emerged as the most preferred choice, with 49% (584) of them opting for this solution. Period underwear followed closely, with 27% (328) respondents showing reliance on this alternative. For those who switch to different products when engaging in sports, tampons were preferred by 48.7% (136) of the participants.

These findings become more intriguing when paired with the participants' sport-related period concerns. Ranking third, marginally behind fatigue in the list of sport-related period worries, was the fear of wearing a bulky pad or anything that might be noticeable to others, resonating with 64.6% (950) of the girls surveyed. This was followed by ‘fear of leakage’ at 59.2% (871). Girls often opt for the thinnest absorbency of disposable pads to avoid embarrassing bulk, a decision which greatly increases the risk of leakage. This is frequently a result of their heavier menstrual flow not being adequately absorbed and managed by the pad's smaller size. This highlights the importance of creating awareness and promoting the use of more discreet and comfortable period management options to encourage sustained participation in sports for young girls during their menstrual cycle.

Period underwear has undergone significant evolution to become a reliable and revolutionary alternative to traditional period products, offering unparalleled comfort and flexibility. They offer a reliable, comfortable alternative which can absorb up to 10-15ml of liquid – which happens to be the same as bulkier heavy flow disposable pads while also providing greater protection against leakage.


Championing Confident Girls, Fearless Athletes: Progress Through Empowering Environments

The findings are disheartening but not surprising; 79.7% of young girls surveyed reported feeling uncomfortable addressing their period challenges with their coach. This is particularly concerning as cramps and fatigue have been identified as primary factors leading to discontinuation of their participation in sports. Even more alarming, 74.8% would not confide in their own father. The reasons behind this silence are varied; some girls reported feeling ashamed or embarrassed, while others felt that their dads weren't supportive enough or didn't understand their needs. In one girl's words

These findings underscore the urgent need for greater awareness and support networks surrounding menstruation and sport.

Coaches, educators, and peers must encourage open dialogues, break stigmas associated with menstruation, and share crucial insights to empower young girls to manage their period-related challenges effectively. By doing so, we may improve sports participation and eliminate the unnecessary barriers that currently hinder the potential of so many young female athletes.


Our survey results are a wake-up call for all stakeholders to address the issues affecting girls’ participation in sports, especially during their period.

Schools, sports organisations, and parents need to provide adequate support to girls by ensuring that they have access to period products that address their concerns and suit their needs as well as comfortable uniforms, and a supportive environment where they can talk about their period and associated challenges without feeling ashamed or embarrassed.

Puberty is an important time for girls, especially in terms of sport and physical activity. Unfortunately, our survey highlighted many challenges that are impacting girls’ ability to participate comfortably and confidently. 

Now is the time for change - schools and sports organisations must refine their uniform policies, provide easy access to suitable period products, create an environment where girls feel they can ask questions, and arm coaches and parents with knowledge on how girls’ bodies change during puberty and what they need to address the challenges those changes can pose.

It is essential we start to recognise what having a period can mean for young female athletes and take collective action steps towards making sure every girl has all of the resources she needs to continue her development in sport without having her participation hindered.  

Everyone deserves the same opportunity to reach their full potential. The skills learned through sport and physical activity are invaluable, so let’s work together to foster an environment that allows all girls to participate in sport throughout puberty without allowing the worry to dampen her joy and enthusiasm to the point that she'd rather sit it out - or worse, tap out all together.

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