Promoting health and performance of elite and youth female football athletes

Project: Research

Project Details


This application is related to the Women in Sport 50:50 PhD scholarship, co-funded by University of Canberra and Capital Football.

Athlete monitoring systems are commonplace among high-performance sports and are used by coaching support staff to inform training prescription and minimise injury risk (1). For example, a traditional athlete monitoring system typically consists of training load measures captured through wearable technology, as well as a suite of self-reported wellness measures (e.g., fatigue, soreness, sleep quality, and mood) (2). These measures are then used to manage training load prescription to optimise physical performance and minimise the risk of injury (2). However, the design and implementation of these systems has predominantly been based on evidence derived from studies of male athletes (3), and often fail to consider factors that may impact health and performance that are specific to female athletes (e.g., menstrual cycle, contraceptive use, breast pain and injury), or prevalent among female athletes (e.g., low energy availability (4)).

The lack of female-specific athlete monitoring systems can be attributed to limited scientific evidence to inform their implementation, and a previous deficiency of resourcing afforded to female athletes. This is further compounded when the procedures used to derive evidence from research are not able to be used practically within a sports environment, and there is no available and valid alternative. For example, there are currently gaps between short-term laboratory-based assessments of energy availability, and the ability to validly assess this in a daily training environment (5).

This collaborative project between Capital Football (the state governing body for football in the ACT) and the University of Canberra will investigate a range of factors that impact the health and performance of elite and developmental female football athletes. The aspects that will be investigated include female-athlete specific factors such as menstrual cycle, contraceptive use, low energy availability, in addition to contemporary athlete monitoring factors such as training load and self-reported wellness measures. Health outcomes will consider illness and injury (including health problems specific to females such as breast pain and injury, and pelvic floor dysfunction) and performance outcomes will consider individual athlete physical capacity testing, and in-match performance analysis. This project will also consider the design of a female-athlete specific athlete monitoring system that can be practically implemented within the female football environment.

The holistic approach taken to the design of this project is novel, as previous research in female football has tended to focus on one or two dimensions of an athlete monitoring system. The ability for us to take this multi-faceted approach can be attributed to the cross-discipline nature of the research team, with expertise in
aspects of sport science, nutrition and dietetics, female health, and data science, as well as football domain experience.
Effective start/end date19/11/2219/11/25


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