After months of debate, the Florida High School Athletic Association will no longer require female students to answer questions regarding their menstrual cycles during preparticipation medical forms. At an emergency meeting on Thursday morning, this organization voted to eliminate such inquiries from preparticipation records.
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Medical histories are an essential element of sports physicals. They allow doctors to assess an athlete’s overall health and determine if he or she is suitable to participate in any athletic activities, including past injuries and illnesses, as well as medications they are taking. Furthermore, these histories allow doctors to identify conditions that could potentially cause injuries or sickness while playing sports – for instance, low blood pressure or an undescended testicle might emerge through such examination.
Florida high school sports associations previously required female students who wanted to play sports to answer questions regarding their menstrual history on medical forms as necessary for playing. Due to privacy concerns following Roe v Wade, they have decided to drop these inquiries following an uproar about privacy rights concerns and accusations of riskiness posed by answering such a question in this era of digital and reproductive privacy. Some physicians and parents deemed the move unnecessary as it put students at risk in this modern era of digital and reproductive privacy.
The Florida Board of Education made its decision after receiving numerous letters from parents objecting to questioning students regarding their menstrual histories. Some parents felt it inappropriate for schools and coaches to ask for this personal information, especially as answers could potentially be shared among coaches and teachers or used by non-medical personnel without medical training.
At this meeting, board members were divided on how best to handle this issue. Some voted in favor of including the question on the form, while others felt it unnecessary and wanted more information regarding athletes’ overall health on it. In the end, however, the board decided to remove it altogether while still mandating that athletes list their emergency contact information on page one of their medical evaluation forms.
The medical evaluation form is a standard document used by students in Florida and other states to establish eligibility for certain activities. This form contains general health screening, cardiac/pulmonary examination, vision testing, and tests for abdominal pain, gastrointestinal issues, and genital issues, as well as neurological assessments by physicians that indicate whether or not their athlete was cleared to participate.
Physical examinations are an essential component of school sports eligibility. A physical exam typically comprises two parts, both signed by a healthcare provider. The first focuses on overall health, typically conducted by primary care doctors, while the second considers specific medical issues that might impede participation and may require the expertise of specialists.
Students entering seventh grade for 2023-2024 are mandated by state law to complete both of these health forms prior to attending their new school year. Otherwise, they will not be eligible to participate in extracurricular activities. The Department of Education provides resources and support services that help parents and healthcare providers complete these requirements for students.
Critics of women’s rights have lashed out against the Florida High School Athletic Association after it removed questions related to female athletes’ menstrual history from its preparticipation physical evaluation forms for sports preparticipation. The changes were implemented at an emergency meeting after activists sent letters voicing their displeasure with these inquiries.
FHSAA forms included optional questions related to mental health, alcohol and drug use, and family medical history; however, following recommendations by its medical committee, mandatory questions have now been implemented. At the same time, the answers remain with healthcare providers instead of being submitted back to schools directly. A four-page form will only be submitted back if their healthcare providers determine they are medically eligible to play sports.
American Academy of Pediatrics told 10 Tampa Bay that the revised questionnaire is in keeping with their guidelines, which recommend that only an overview of medical eligibility be shared with schools, not individual details about patients’ personal medical histories. He further mentioned how changing this form does not alter advice from physician members of their group who emphasize menstrual history as a potential factor for anemia and other conditions that put female athletes at greater risk of injury.
Early this year, an organization overseeing high school sports in Florida required student-athletes to submit information about their menstrual history on health forms. These questions, which asked “when was your most recent menstruation period,” generated widespread outrage from activists and parents concerned with reproductive rights and privacy issues for their daughters’ data. After months of criticism from activists and parents alike, the Florida High School Athletic Association eventually decided to remove these inquiries from its four-page medical evaluation form before students could participate in sports activities.
Changes take effect beginning next spring, and student-athletes no longer must provide details regarding their menstrual history to schools or doctors. Instead, those details will remain private between themselves and their doctor(s). One page of the new form still requests information regarding assigned sex at birth – though schools will have access to that data alongside emergency medical data and physician clearance clearance to play.
FHSAA officials state that changing the form was motivated by concerns for women’s medical privacy and compliance with federal laws. Critics assert that it may have been political; according to some accounts, this decision reflected Governor Ron DeSantis, who is considering running for president in 2024 and has made controversial statements about transgender individuals.
An advisory committee of the FHSAA composed of representatives from schools and sports organizations recommended this form, believing it would help assess if female athletes were healthy enough to participate in athletics. However, advocates noted that other states had written specific language into their physical evaluation forms that prohibits providing this personal medical data to schools.
Florida High School Athletic Association’s decision to remove questions on female athletes’ menstrual histories marks a significant victory, yet their privacy fight continues. A legislative proposal designed to prevent the sharing between schools and state agencies continues gaining support in Congress; three House Democrats recently introduced the PERIOD Act into their respective chambers of Congress.
If your athlete had an ECG at one of our approved providers (Who We Play For, Orlando Health Sports Medicine Group, MedFast Urgent Care Melbourne, or Brevard Family Walk-in Rockledge), please upload this with their physical exam or with their OCPS Cardiology Report Form.
At its February 26-27 meeting in Gainesville, the Florida High School Athletic Association board voted to make menstrual history questions mandatory, as recommended by its medical advisory committee. Evaluation forms already contain four pages worth of evaluation questions regarding menstruation history; therefore, including menstrual history questions could make the evaluation more thorough and provide better data for future evaluation processes.
Answers will remain with the health care providers who conduct the physicals rather than being shared in schools. Some parents and activists feared that including this information could reveal students’ birth gender assignments or lead to discrimination against transgender athletes.