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Female Health and Wellbeing

The primary objective of the Female Health and Wellbeing research cluster is to conduct multidisciplinary research to increase scientific knowledge of female specific health issues, and to develop and disseminate effective strategies for optimising health and performance of female athletes and exercisers.

The cluster has a particular interest in menstrual dysfunction in female athletes, iron deficiency, the effect of female hormones on physiological and psychological variables, breast health of female exercisers, and barriers to physical activity in the female population. 

The cluster aims to:

  • Provide an understanding of the prevalence and impact of female specific health issues
  • Evaluate strategies to tackle these health issues
  • Establish collaborative relationships with individuals, institutions and organisations globally to improve female athletes’ health
  • Develop knowledge transfer mechanisms to share scientific research results with female athletes and professionals working with this population.

Cluster members regularly present their work nationally and internationally and are involved with numerous industry partners and organisations such as FitrWoman, NHS Choices, and the English Institute of Sport.  

PhD students

  • Emily Cushion (mechanics and motor control of jumping)
  • Elaine Mullally (noncontact knee injury mechanism in adult recreation netball players  
  • Atefeh Omrani (breast health education for adolescents)
  • Britta Sorensen (strategies to enhance sport-specific risk and pain management during endurance performance)

All research degree students at St Mary’s are part of the Doctoral College.

External partners

Members of the group have worked with the following organisations:

  • SCA Care of Life
  • Bodyform
  • The Harvard Medical School
  • Boston Children’s Hospital
  • FitrWoman
  • Centre for Sleep Health and Human Performance
  • Massachusetts General Hospital
  • UCL
  • University of Portsmouth
  • University of Chichester
  • British Athletics
  • England Athletics
  • Orreco
  • English Institute of Sport

Media coverage

Our research regularly receives attention from the media, please find selected articles below:

June 2018 Irish Examiner – App for female athletes ‘is about training smarter, not harder’

November 2017 CNN – The menstruation app aiming to tackle sports last ‘taboo’

August 2016 BBC News - Rio 2016: Support as China's Fu Yuanhui breaks period taboo

January 2016 The Telegraph – Half of British schoolgirls put off doing sport because of concerns about their breasts

August 2015 The Telegraph – Periods in sport: Half of athletes don’t perform as well when menstruating

Selected publications

  • Ackerman, K. E., Holtzman, B., Cooper, K. M., Flynn, E. F., Bruinvels, G., Tenforde, A. S., Popp, K. L., Simpkin, A. J., & Parziale, A. L. (2018).  Low energy availability surrogates correlate with health and performance consequences of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). British Journal of Sports Medicine, DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2017-098958
  • Pedlar, C., Bruinvels, G., Brugnara, C., & Burden, R. (2018). Invited review: Iron Balance and Iron Supplementation for the Female Athlete, a Practical Approach. European Journal of Sports Science, 18(2), pp. 295 – 305. DOI: 10.1080/17461391.2017.1416178.  
  • Blagrove, R., Bruinvels, G., & Read, P. (2017). Early sport-specialization and intensive training in adolescent female athletes: risks and recommendations. Strength and Conditioning Journal, DOI:10.1519/ssc.0000000000000315
  • Bruinvels, G., Burden, R. J., McGregor, A. J., Ackerman, K. E., Dooley, M., Richards, T., & Pedlar, C. (2017). Sport, exercise and the menstrual cycle: where is the research? British Journal of Sports Medicine, 51, 487-488. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2016-096279.
  • Bruinvels, G., Burden, R., Brown, N., Richards, T., & Pedlar, C. (2016). The prevalence and impact of heavy menstrual bleeding (menorrhagia) on elite and non-elite athletes. PLOS One, DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0149881. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0149881.
  • Risius, D., Milligan, A., Berns, J., Brown, N., & Scurr, J. (2016). Understanding key performance indicators for breast support: An analysis of breast support effects on biomechanical, physiological and subjective measures during running. Journal of Sports Science, 35(9), 842-851. DOI:10.1080/02640414.2016.1194523.
  • Scurr, J., Brown, N., Smith, J., Brasher, A., Risius, D., & Marczyk, A. (2016). The influence of the breast on sport and exercise participation in school girls in the UK. Journal of Adolescent Health, 58(2), 167-173. DOI:10.1016/j.jadohealth.2015.10.005.
  • Brown, N., Burnett, E., & Scurr, J. (2015). Is breast pain greater in active females compared to the general population in the UK? The Breast Journal, 22(2), 194-201. DOI:10.1111/tbj.12547.
  • Bruinvels, G., Burden, R., Brown, N., Richards, T., & Pedlar, C. (2015). The prevalence and impact of heavy menstrual bleeding among athletes and mass start runners of the 2015 London Marathon. Br J Sports Med. DOI:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095505.
  • Scurr, J., Hedger, W., Morris, P., & Brown, N. (2014). The prevalence, severity and impact of breast pain in the general population. The Breast Journal, 20(5), 508-513. DOI:10.1111/tbj.123010.1111/tbj.12305.
  • Brown, N., White, J., Brasher, A. & Scurr, J. (2014). An investigation in to breast support and sports bra use in female runners of the 2012 London Marathon. Journal of Sports Science, 32(9), 801-809. DOI:10.1080/02640414.2013.844348.
  • Brown, N., White, J., Brasher, A. & Scurr, J. (2014). The experience of mastalgia in female runners of the 2012 London Marathon and its effect on exercise behaviour. British Journal of Sports Medicince, 48, 320-325. DOI: 10.1136/bjsports-2013-092175.