Women In Sports: Understanding Endometriosis

Too much Pain can hamper Gains for Women in Sports.

Women in sports continue to struggle with undiagnosed endometriosis, which forces them to suffer silently in pain. Why? Because they fear an end to their career. This was the case for British track cyclist Elinor Barker.

Simply put, endometriosis is a painful condition in which tissue similar to that found in the lining of the uterus grows outside of it. It causes severe cramps, back pain, nausea, and heavy periods.

Women in Sports
One in ten women suffers from Endometriosis (Source: BBC)

For a disorder that affects one in ten women, the average time it takes to be diagnosed is seven and a half years.

While this is a difficult experience for any woman suffering from endometriosis, it has a particularly negative impact on women in sports. Athletes risk losing their careers because they are seen as a liability where their performance is inhibited.

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“It was agony.” – Elinor Barker.

Elinor Barker describes the pain as ‘someone was ringing out her organs as if they were a tea towel.’

Between her first doctor’s appointment and the surgery after diagnosis, the British cyclist went to four World Championships, the Olympics; the Commonwealth Games, and loads of events.

Women in Sports
Elinor Barker opens about her struggle with endometriosis. (Source: ITV Hub)

During this time, Elinor was in pain for up to three and a half weeks each month. Her coaches and team-mates said nothing, despite her struggles. They were afraid of her being seen as a risky option. 

As expected, Elinor had to pull out of the Madison cycling tour due to her condition. Such occurrences side-lined her career as she risked losing funding, support, and her one-year contracts.

Struggle to Open Up

In light, Barker claims she struggled to open up about her issues when surrounded by so many men who made the decisions.

Hence, she covered up her pain as originating from a bad crash during one of her tours when it resulted from her endometriosis.

Like so, many female athletes have come forward with the same condition. They stated that it had a negative mental impact on them because no one believed them; even when they were in agonizing pain.

With more women in sports openly discussing such issues with each other, their coaches, and the media, discourse around the topic has raised awareness and created a more inclusive environment for women.

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The medical and scientific community within sport has now started to do more research than ever into women’s health issues.

With this, the EIS educates coaches and athletes on understanding and managing these health problems.

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