24 August 2022
The inaugural Women in Sport Congress (WISC) has been hailed a huge success and a major turning point for women’s health and wellbeing.
More than 300 world-leading health and performance experts came together in Melbourne last week to share crucial insights and ideas.
The three-day congress was a joint initiative between the AIS Female Performance and Health Initiative (FPHI) and La Trobe University’s Sport and Exercise Medicine Research Centre (LASEM) which saw academics, researchers and leaders in sport share critical findings.
The congress highlighted the latest evidence as well as gaps in research related to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, nutrition, injury prevention and more.
“For so long women in sport have not had the information they need to optimise their health and in turn optimise their performance,’’ said AIS FPHI Lead Dr Rachel Harris. “Through improving health literacy, we can increase their training times and chances of getting further up the podium.’’
“Our vision was to showcase the work of researchers and clinicians from around the world who are undertaking wonderful work to support women in sport.”
LASEM Professor Kay Crossley said: “This event is so much more than we thought it would be. We were hoping for 200 attendees, our wildest ambition was 250 and now there is more than 300 people here.”
High performance athletes praised the initiative.
Commonwealth Games gold medal racewalker Jemima Montag said: “Up until now so much of the research was undertaken on men and boys and then directly translated across to females. This leaves us frustrated and lonely and confused…and ultimately contributes to the decline of women and girls in sport. So this work makes us feel seen, heard and supported.”
Paralympic silver medallist Monique Murphy was frustrated by health issues during her swimming career, waiting five years to be diagnosed with endometriosis.
“If I’d had better support and access to information earlier and a diagnosis when I needed it, it would have completely changed my results as an athlete and it would have changed my career trajectory,’’ said Murphy. “So it’s really important that we learn from each other’s experiences and make sure the next generation has a more positive journey.’’
The AIS Female Performance & Health Initiative was established in October 2019, to improve female athlete specific knowledge and systems of support.
The conference also highlighted the importance of cross-sector collaboration. Sydney Swans AFLW Executive General Manager Kate Mahony said: “We need to get female-specific resources and start to get education and information out to not just athletes but also people working with female athletes – clinicians, coaches, executives – to help them understand that every athlete needs to be approached differently.”
The long-term vision is to ensure this information is made available at the first touchpoint in sport.
“If we can get this education and research out to people when they’re first introduced to sport, we can help them empower themselves with health literacy, which leads to a better experience in sport and an even stronger performance on the world stage,’’ said Dr Harris.
More information about the congress can be found here: WISC - Women In Sport Congress