HomeCivil RightsFlorida weighs mandating menstrual cycle details for female athletes

Florida weighs mandating menstrual cycle details for female athletes

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CLAIM: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is requiring all female student-athletes in the state to provide detailed information about their periods in order to compete in organized sports. 

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AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The Florida High School Athletic Association is weighing the recommendation from an advisory committee, but no final decision has been made. DeSantis’ education commissioner is a member of the association’s board of directors and the commissioner also appoints three others, but the association is a private nonprofit organization, not a state agency under the purview of the governor’s office.

THE FACTS: Social media users are suggesting the conservative Republican governor, who has been an outspoken critic of transgender athletes, is again using sports to stoke controversy as he weighs a run for president in 2024.

“BREAKING: Ron DeSantis wants female student athletes to submit menstrual information. THIS IS INSANE!,” wrote one Twitter user in a post.

“Ron DeSantis: The government has no right in telling federal employees to wear masks. Also Ron DeSantis: The government has every right to know when every single high school girl has her period,” wrote another Twitter user in a post that had been liked or shared more than 3,000 times as of Friday. “Ron DeSantis is the epitome of hypocrisy, and quite the creep!”

But the proposed mandate hasn’t had final approval, and wasn’t developed by DeSantis’ office.

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Florida currently asks female high school athletes to provide information about their menstrual cycle on health forms required to participate in sports, but it is not mandatory. 

Ryan Harrison, the association’s spokesperson, confirmed the new recommendations were developed by its sports medicine advisory committee and approved in late January. It will now be considered by the association board of directors at its next meeting in Gainesville from Feb. 26-27. 

The association is recognized as the state’s official governing body for interscholastic sports. Its board includes a representative for the office of state Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, who DeSantis appointed. Diaz also picks three others to serve on the 16-member board. 

DeSantis and Diaz’s offices didn’t respond to emails seeking comment this week, but Harrison stressed the proposed changes are not in response to concerns about transgender athletes competing in women’s sports, as some social media users claim.

“There is absolutely no support of the argument that their recommendation is aimed towards addressing an individual group of people,” he wrote in an email. 

The athletic association’s current Preparticipation Physical Evaluation Form, which must be completed by a student and their physician and kept on file at their school, asks female athletes five questions about their periods, but they’re all listed as optional. 

The questions, which association officials say have been on the form for at least two decades,include when a student had their first menstrual period, when the most recent one was, how long the interval between their periods typically lasts, how many they’ve had in the past year and the longest interval between periods in the last year.

The proposed revisions to the form include four mandatory questions about menstruation, including if the student has ever had a period, the age they had their first period, the date of their most recent period and how many periods they’ve had in the past year.

Robert Sefcik, a member of the sports medicine advisory committee, said making the menstrual cycle questions mandatory rather than optional is consistent with national guidelines for sports physicals developed by the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine and other groups.

He said having a form that has been vetted and published by national organizations provides an “extremely credible resource” for doctors conducting sports physicals.

“We appreciate the medical necessity of the questions, including menstrual history, that are included on this form and support their inclusion on the form,” Sefcik, who was the committee’s previous chairperson and voted in favor of recommendations, wrote in an email

The national guidelines say menstrual history is an “essential discussion for female athletes” because period abnormalities could be a sign of “low energy availability, pregnancy, or other gynecologic or medical conditions.”

“Menstrual dysfunction is 2-3 times more common in athletes than nonathletes, and 10-15% of female athletes have amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) or oligomenorrhea (a decrease in number of menstrual cycles per year),” the guidelines read. “Amenorrhea occurs more frequently in players of sports that emphasize leanness, such as running, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, and figure skating.”

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online.

By PHILIP MARCELO

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