New female athlete resources focus on health, performance

Australian Institute of Sport

Body image, breast health and nutrition are among the new educational resources being launched by the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) today to support female athletes in both sport and in life.

The education modules are part of the AIS Female Performance and Health Initiative (FPHI), an Australian leading program launched in 2019 to raise awareness about matters specifically relating to female athletes.

Following the success of the first modules launched in 2021, six new topics specific to female athletes – body image, nutrition, bone health, pelvic health, breast health and low energy availability – have been added to the AIS FPHI online learning page.

AIS Acting CEO Matti Clements said: “The AIS is intent on providing a leadership role in supporting female athlete health and performance.

“Sustainable success is a key aim of the AIS and the foundation of Australia’s collective National High Performance Sport Strategy. The Female Performance and Health Initiative ensures that sports and our female athletes have the knowledge and resources they need to succeed both in sport and in life.”

AIS FPHI Project Lead and Chief Medical Officer of Paralympics Australia, Dr Rachel Harris, says it ‘is crucial female athletes are aware about their health and how it impacts performance.

“Historically, the majority of research and resources relating to health and performance were based on men, creating a lot of guesswork for female athletes, as well as their coaches and health practitioners,” said Dr Harris.

“Our female athletes need the right information to be at their best and with the FPHI, we have sought to create a one-stop-shop to do just that.

“We had a great response to the first modules which related to menstruation, puberty and contraception and look forward to increasing awareness with these new topics of body image, nutrition, bone health, pelvic floor, breast health and low energy availability.”

Australian Bobsledder Bree Walker knows how important health is to her performance. As well as preparing to make her Olympic debut at next month’s Beijing Winter Games, she has been working as part of the AIS FPHI Athlete Advisory Group, which helps to shape and guide the initiative.

“I’m extremely excited to be a part of this module for the FPHI and I hope that female athletes can get useful information from other female athletes that have been there and done all that,” Walker said. “If it can help at least one athlete then I think we have done our jobs as part of this initiative.”

Australian Netball World Champion Natalie Medhurst, also part of the AIS FPHI Athlete Advisory Group, said: “These resources are a previously missing element in providing athletes with information regarding the impacts of sport on their bodies and brings attention to topics not usually discussed or thought of until post-career.

“The resources not only provide athletes with knowledge, but also empower them to ask questions to ensure that their overall health as a female is a priority, while also managing the demands and aspirations of their sporting careers.”

The FPHI modules were developed in consultation with leading experts and institutions such as Sports Nutritionist Dr Louise Burke, University of Wollongong, Griffith University, and Monash University.

The introduction of the six new topics means there are now a total of 14 FPHI learning modules available for athletes, coaches and health practitioners. F

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