Three projects launched to support clubs on female athlete health

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The Barclays Women’s Super League, Barclays Women’s Championship and The Well HQ have announced three new projects to support their clubs across various areas of Female Athlete Health.

The collaboration between the women’s professional game and The Well HQ began in 2020 with the introduction of internal workshops to support their players.

The relationship between the leagues and The Well HQ led to the commission of a report entitled ‘The State of Play Project’ which gathered insights from players and support staff in the professional game.

As a result of this research, which was conducted via 101 player surveys, 34 player interviews, 19 support staff surveys and 41 support staff interviews, the development of recommendations for improvement were made in 2022.

The following three projects were then created:

FootballHER: CPD [Continuing Professional Development] For All, an online course for staff across both Barclays Women’s Super League and Barclays Women’s Championship clubs. This was rolled out across all 24 league clubs in October 2023, and is the first ever NGB mandated training on female-specific health.

Each club has eight licences which are required to be spread across key areas including coaching staff, doctors, physiotherapy, physical performance staff and player well-being.

The course provides an holistic approach to female health and synthesises up-to-date evidence-based information, packaging and delivering it in an engaging manner, accommodating different learning preferences and providing practical guidance on how to apply this information in varying club environments across the two leagues.

The modules include Women in Football; Menstrual Cycle & Performance; Kit for Women; Nutrition in Football, Injury Risk & Resilience; Pelvic Health; Fertility & Pre/Post-Natal and Cultivating Environments.

In addition, each club will be asked to nominate an existing member of support staff to be named as their Female Athlete Health Lead [FAHL] who will establish leadership and accountability for embedded and sustainable support of female player health within clubs.

The 24 FAHLs will be given additional education and support by The Well HQ to empower them within this role, including a course in Spring 2024 which will provide detailed sessions on several topics linked to FootballHER.

Finally, the delivery of Best Practice Guidelines on Pregnancy & Post-Natal Care, Menstrual Cycle Health and Pelvic Health will be delivered throughout 2024, working closely with medical staff across England Women to ensure alignment across the entirety of the women’s professional pathway.

Andy Hudson, Performance Support Manager for the Women’s Professional Game, said: “Female athlete health is a key focus for us across women’s professional football and we are fully committed to supporting and improving this area of the game.

“We have some fantastic people that are helping to drive this work and they are supported by The Well HQ who are specialists in delivering female health strategies across the world of business and sport.

“This is just the start of our research in this area, and we look forward to continuing our work with them as we aim to improve education around our athletes’ physical health.”

Dr Emma Ross, Chief Scientific Officer at The Well HQ, added: “The women’s professional game in England will be the first to have football specific CPD for coaches and performance support staff, and to mandate a female athlete health lead in each club.

“This is huge, and it will pave the way for what best practice looks like in the future across all sports – everybody involved should all be very proud that they have played their part in changing sport for women today.

“We need to be brave enough to challenge the status quo, to kick ‘the way we have always done things’ into touch and forge a new hopeful future where women can thrive.”

The Well HQ has also collaborated with The FA on a separate research project to better understand and address female health matters across the grassroots game.

The research findings will be made public in the coming months and will be crucial for enhancing wellbeing and supporting performance for all women and girls in football.

With thanks to the FA