Can Female Racers React As Well As Their Male Counterparts…Throughout Their Menstrual Cycle?

Automologist and woman (last she checked), Ling, conveys the results.

The generalisation that women can’t drive is very much outdated. But in the world of motorsports, the debate on whether women can race is still raging. So much so that Michigan State University thought it necessary to fund a research on the “Physiological Responses of Male and Female Race Car Drivers During Competition“. The study includes examining differences in male and female responses in open and closed cockpit race cars as well as the “influence of menstrual cycle phase” among female drivers.

If you’re wondering why it was necessary to involve the female cycle, Assistant Professor David Ferguson, who led the study, said that it was important to study the effect of the menstrual cycle on racing responses because the cockpit of a race car gets hot. And so do women, during certain phases of their menstrual cycle.

According to the American College of OBGYN, around 85% of menstruating women experience at least one symptom of PMS, which includes cramping, joint and muscle pain, headaches, lethargy, bloating, etc. And hormone levels can be adversely affected by intense exercise, which many sportswomen engage in.

Recently, female athletes, from tennis players to long jumpers, have been more forthcoming about how the menstrual cycle affect their performance. The global audience was sympathetic when Chinese swimmer, Fu Yuanhui, admitted to feeling tired and weak whilst competing in the Rio Olympics. But is this an excuse for womankind and are we asking for a handicap in sports and in life? No. As a part-time feminist, I just want the world to acknowledge that women have to deal with pain and discomfort about once every month, for a couple of days, yet we soldier on.

 

Ok, motorsports is, arguably, quite different from other sports. The Michigan State University study collected data on heart rate, breathing rate, skin temperature, core temperature and physiological strain index of male and female racers during three races. The short answer to whether a female racer’s response is affected by her menstrual cycle whilst racing is: No.

Thank god. After all, there are already a million other reasons used to justify why women are unfit to take the wheel.

However, there were only a dozen race car drivers involved in the study—6 male, 6 female—and as a woman with more than five other female friends, I can tell you that menstrual symptoms vary greatly from woman to woman. If it was another subject of study, I’d say that you’d need to conduct a study with a larger sample size to verify the findings. But in this case, nah.

The study concludes: “Thereby, practitioners should focus on reducing stresses induced by a closed cockpit race car as opposed to the menstrual cycle.” I could have told you that. ANY woman could.

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