An effective, economic way of monitoring menstrual cycle hormones in at risk female athletes
American College of Sports Medicine
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Biomedical and Sports Science
Purpose: Female athletes, in response to intensive training, competition stress and a lean, athletic physique, are at increased risk of altered hypothalamic-pituitary ovarian (HPO) axis function associated with menstrual cycle disturbance and reduced secretion of the ovarian hormones estrogen and progesterone. Because there is evidence suggesting possible detrimental effects on skeletal health associated with deficiencies in these hormones, a suitable means to asses ovarian hormone concentrations in at risk athletes is needed. The aim of this study was to evaluate a simple, economical means to monitor the ovarian hormone production in athletes, in the setting of intensive training.
Methods: Subjects comprised 14 adolescent rowers, 12 lightweight rowers, and two groups of 10 matched control subjects. Ovarian function was monitored during the competition season by estimation of urinary excretion of estrone glucuronide (E1G) and pregnanediol glucuronide (PdG), enabling the menstrual cycles to be classified as ovulatory or anovulatory.
Results: Results indicated 35% and 75% of schoolgirl and lightweight rowers had anovulatory menstrual cycles, respectively. These findings were highlighted by significantly lower excretion of E1G and PdG during phases of intensive training in both the lightweight and schoolgirl rowers, compared with the control subjects.
Conclusion: It was concluded that the urinary E1G and PdG assays were an effective means to assess the influence of intense training on ovarian hormone concentrations in at risk athletes. It is recommended that this technique be applied more widely as a means of early detection of athletes with low estrogen and progesterone levels, in an attempt to avoid detrimental influences on skeletal health.