How periods affect women playing football


West Bromwich Albion Women’s forward Shannon Stamps says the shorts colour change action taken at her club is a positive change for the women’s game with her not having to think ‘what if’ when playing.

On September 29th it was announced by West Brom that the women’s team would wear navy shorts for the remainder of the 2022/23 season making the switch from white coloured shorts.

The decision came after England star Beth Mead highlighted the issue following winning the Euros in summer 2022 saying: “It’s very nice to have an all-white kit but sometimes it’s not practical when it’s the time of the month.”

Members of the squad said manager Jenny Sugarman ‘spearheaded’ the change, calling for action at the club.

West Brom announced on their website: “The decision to don navy rather than white shorts was taken following full consultation with the Albion Women playing squad.

“Wearing white clothing while on a period is an issue that has been highlighted by women across all sports, and Albion will ensure this is fully considered when designing all future home kits.”

Statistics and WBA becoming a ‘trend setter’

Social impact platform Tribes for Good found statistics in August 2022 stating the percentage of women’s athletes who experience negative side effects due to their menstrual cycle.

Since the action was taken by West Brom, many other clubs have followed suit with the club becoming a ‘trend setter’ in the women’s game.

West Brom defender Hayley Crackle was thrilled with the decision and to see other clubs take the same action.

“We were happy and started a bit of a trend from it because we were the first in the country to do it and make the decision.

“Other teams have then followed suit from the league below, leagues above, the top division and at international level.

“We’ve done something about it and other teams have followed suit which is good,” she added.

Statistics from the British Journal of Sports Medicine state that almost all athletes (93%) in their 2015 study with women’s Rugby players reported menstrual cycle-related symptoms. Thirty-three per cent perceived heavy menstrual bleeding and 67% considered these symptoms impaired their performances.

How periods affect playing football

Sophie Tudor admitted it’s much tougher playing when she is on her period with the 22-year-old expressing it affects her: “Both physically and mentally.

“I feel like I’m always in pain when I come onto the pitch. With the emotional side of it too, anything that goes wrong tears go down my eyes because it’s that time of the month,” the defender added.

Typical symptoms women experience from their period are muscle aches, tender breasts, joint pain, headaches, bloating, fluid retention, acne, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, constipation, lower back pain, trouble sleeping, low energy and fatigue.

The symptoms can make playing sport a challenge as Kate Evans says: “I just feel fatigued when I’m on my period, you just feel so different.

“I have less energy than when I’m not on it, it’s frustrating.”

Shannon Stamps confessed the positive affects the change has had as she doesn’t have to worry about her period on the pitch.

“Playing with the blue shorts I feel a lot more comfortable. I haven’t got to think ‘what if’ or anything like that.

“It’s given me the element of just being able to play without the thought of it, it’s definitely a good change.”

The previous white shorts can be seen in the photo above.

Should this change have happened time ago?

Evans is proud to be at the club who made the switch first with it having a big impact on women’s sport in general.

She said: “It’s massive to be at West Brom and be the first club to do it.

“It’s not even within football as well, with other sports catching on.

“Wimbledon have changed their rules, so women don’t have to wear the traditional white.”

In November 2022 Wimbledon announced that it will relax its clothing rules to allow women players to wear dark-coloured clothes.

This decision came with growing pressure on organisers to change the rules as the matter of blood showing from a period on clothing raised.

Hayley Crackle thinks the decision should’ve happened sooner, surprised at this change only just coming about as she hopes to see it have a positive impact on the younger players in the game.

“I think it should’ve happened years ago to be honest.

“A lot of kid’s teams are changing now because I think it’s more of an anxious thing when you’re starting your period as you go through those teenage puberty years.

“For those girls I think it’s really important because it’s that other stress that they don’t have to worry about,” the 27-year-old said.

Evans hopes the change will see fewer young women give up football as they won’t have to worry about the physical side effects of their period when playing.

“We know that in teenage years a lot more women give up sport. If that’s a reason that girls are giving up sport, then it’s huge.

“If we can take away that reason for girls to stop playing football it’s going to have a huge impact,” she added.

Who called for action?

West Brom Women’s manager Jenny Sugarman led the change as the players admitted it wasn’t something they thought about too much.

Crackle said: “Jenny did it herself and now looking at it I wonder why was this not done before. It and changed all our opinions.

“This should’ve been done years ago when we were younger and going through the youth systems.

“It wasn’t something we discussed as a squad,” she added.

Stamps said: “We all mention it if it’s that time of the month.

“Jenny taking that step takes that anxiety away from us, giving us one less thing to worry about.”

Moving forward Stamps hopes to see the issue talked about more and to see more girls opening up about their period, discussing the matter if they’re struggling.

“It’s a reality that all women have periods. To mask that and pretend like we don’t, would be wrong.”

She hopes for players to be: “More open and discussing it, with kids coming up and being able to say if they are not ok because they are on their period.

“Opening that up to discussion would help a lot of young girls out,” the 21-year-old added.

Since WBA made the swap to navy many football clubs like Manchester City and Crewe have followed suit with them announcing they will change the colour of their shorts from next season.

Stoke City announced that they will be switching to red shorts with immediate effect just a week after West Brom confirmed it themselves.

With more clubs expected to join in the future, there is plenty of positivity around.  The Australian Women’s Football League has announced in early December that no white shorts will be worn by teams due to concerns over bleeding for women playing sport on their periods.

Admiration must be given to the women playing given their circumstances and to the clubs acting with the positive change driving the game and sport forward.

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