Do you have any chronic illnesses?
Do you have asthma?
Have you broken any bones or dislocated any joints?
Have you ever had chest pain during or after exercise?
All these questions directly relate to athletes’ fitness to play sports and injury prevention.
But for female athletes, other questions on the form can get a little awkward, and now they’re getting controversial over abortion and privacy concerns.
For more than 20 years, the Florida State High School Athletic Association has asked female athletes to answer the following questions on their pre-participation form:
- When was your first menstrual period?
- When was your most recent menstrual period?
- How much time do you usually have from the start of one period to
the start of another?
- How many periods have you had in the last year?
- What was the longest time between periods in the last year?
The questions are optional.
Why questions about athletes’ periods help doctors
Period history is important information for pediatricians to know as they screen for bleeding and hormonal conditions that can cause complications for athletes.
But in Florida, all that medical data is then turned over to the athlete’s school, contrary to other states requiring only the physician’s signature page to clear them to play.
Although the questions are nothing new, athletes, their families, and their doctors are taking a closer look at where this information goes after the overturning of Roe v. Wade this summer by the U.S. Supreme Court.
With reproductive privacy and parental rights over children’s data top of mind, both abortion rights advocates and concerned parents have raised alarms about the questions and how they can be used.
“I don’t think it was our intent for this information to be shared with anyone else,” one physician, who served on a national committee that wrote a similar form, said. “The bottom line for the coach is: ‘Are they clear or not?’ The rest of the information is between the athlete and their family.”
The Palm Beach Post dug into where these questions came from, why they’re asked and how parents, doctors, and coaches think about reproductive privacy and data security differently in a post-Roe world.