Not everyone, Sloane Stephens admits, feels comfortable being as honest as she does when it comes to women’s health issues.
“I’m just like, ‘Periods, yeah,'” Stephens tells the PA news agency.
We are speaking in New York on the occasion of Her Health Advantage, a panel organized by the WTA and its main sponsor Hologic to discuss the issue of women’s health not only in sport but globally.
Since they announced a multi-year partnership with the American healthcare company in March, the WTA and its players have truly embraced the concept of tennis as an agent for social change.
The figures revealed by Hologic’s Global Women’s Health Index are stark: over 60% of women surveyed said they had not seen a doctor or healthcare professional in the past year, while only 12% had been tested for any type. of cancer.
“As a tour, being the biggest women’s sport, it’s extremely important to us to have someone who believes in the same thing we believe in,” says former US Open champion Stephens.
“Being able to focus more on women’s health, the recovery process, menstrual cycles, all those things that are not really studied in female athletes, I think is important and obviously to be able to be a part of it as a tour – we all have an input. and we all have data: I think it was a really good partnership. “
The topic of the impact of the menstrual cycle on female athletes has entered public discourse in the past year or two, with tennis players and other sports opening up on the effect of periods and hormonal changes on performance.
Science still has a long way to go, but that something so fundamental in women’s daily lives has been overlooked for so long is a demonstration of the attitude towards women’s health as a whole.
“A lot of things for women were invented by men,” says Stephens. “Tampons were invented by a man. It’s so crazy for me.
With tennis players on the road for about 40 weeks a year, the WTA offers them health care, from psychologists to cancer screening.
And players are learning that a well-rounded approach to a healthy body and mind is the key to getting the best out of yourself as an athlete.
Madison Keys, Stephens second at the US Open in 2017, tells PA: “As I get older, learning how many things can affect injuries or not being at my best on the court really made me change my mind. my hands.
“Even how I need to train based on the part of my cycle I’m in and stuff like that, are all things I’m learning now that I wish I knew when I was younger.
“But it’s so good that we now have so many other women-based studies to try and create some sort of understanding of our body and how to be in the best position to always be on the court.
“Having it normalized and not a taboo subject that you feel uncomfortable talking about, I think it not only helps us as individuals, but I think it helps speed up the process of getting more information that we can use to help us.”
Martina Navratilova received a severe shock in 2010 when she was diagnosed with breast cancer which she admits let her screenings lapse.
“Awareness, awareness, awareness,” says the 18-time solo Grand Slam champion, who has made a full recovery.
“I skipped four years between screenings because I wasn’t paying enough attention.”
Navratilova is another big supporter of the Hologic partnership, particularly the company’s work in making healthcare accessible to hard-to-reach communities.
“What I love most is that it only focuses on women,” she says. “Women are always underserved and neglected and this company certainly doesn’t and I think the relationship with the WTA is just a perfect match.”