Date of Award

2016

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Education in Exercise Science

Department

Education and Human Services

First Advisor

Kullman, Emily

Subject Headings

Behavioral Sciences, Kinesiology, Physiology

Abstract

It has long been speculated that the menstrual cycle affects athletic performance. Whether athletic performance is impacted by menstrual cycle phase is dependent upon an array of factors: the type of activity (i.e., aerobic or anaerobic); oral contraceptive (OC) use; and, possibly, if mental processing is required during the execution of the task. Prior research has indicated that alterations in estradiol (E2) affects cognitive performance. However, there is a paucity of information about whether E2 modulates the speed of cognitive processing in a sports setting, which may cause alterations in sport performance throughout the menstrual cycle. Additionally, variations in E2 levels during the menstrual cycle are associated with changes in joint laxity, which may translate into changes in quick and powerful movements, such as multidirectional running patterns that are required in many sports. PURPOSE: The present study aimed to deduce if fluctuations in E2 influence agility performance in the reactive agility test (RAT) and T-Test. The former requires mental processing during its execution, whereas the T-Test does not. METHODS: Subjects (n=10; BMI 22.4 ± 1.4-kg/m2; weight 61.3 ± 5.6-kg; age 24.2 ± 5-years; height 165.58 ± 8.29-centimeters) were tested on the RAT and T-Test, during mid-cycle ([MC], high E2) and the early follicular phase ([EF], low E2) of the menstrual cycle. Subjects monitored urine levels of luteinizing hormone (LH), to determine when the surge in E2 occurs and correspondingly the MC test timing. RESULTS: With respect to the T-Test, the results indicated that the subjects were significantly faster during EF, relative to MC (12.3 ± 0.89-s vs. 12.56 ± 0.90-s, p=0.007). However, there were no significant differences in RAT agility times between EF and MC. CONCLUSION: Cognitive function (i.e., mental processing) during the execution of sports-related movements is not affected, but joint laxity and the subsequent alterations in biomechanics may hinder the ability to execute athletic maneuvers that require sudden changes in direction. Strength and conditioning coaches and athletes should conduct agility trials during EF to have greater consistency between trials; especially when assessing the efficacy of a strength and conditioning paradigm.

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