- A state panel voted to recommend Florida student athletes be required to turn in menstrual history to schools when they register to play for the year.
- The FHSAA’s director gave false information regarding the number of states that do the same.
- He corrected the record and the committee voted to stick with requiring the forms go to schools.
A panel of the Florida High School Athletics Association stood by its recommendation to require student spanthletes to turn in informspantion spanbout their menstruspanl periods to their schools when they register to play each year.
The group also decided to stick with its recommendation to FHSAA’s board of directors to force student athletes to answer questions about their menstrual history when they complete their annual athletics physical.
The FHSAA’s sports medicine advisory committee held a special meeting Tuesday night to clarify false information presented by the executive director at its previous meeting.
Executive Director Craig Damon told the committee on Jan. 17 that all 49 other states in the country require athletes to turn in their medical and menstrual history to schools in order to play. Research by The Palm Beach Post found that 10 states explicitly tell athletes not to turn in their medical history to schools when they register.
Just two days after the meeting, the sports medicine committee called a special meeting to reconsider its stance.
On Tuesday, Damon apologized for presenting false information, and said his office confirmed in the past week that 41 of 51 stspante spanthletic spanssocispantions requires athletes to turn in their menstrual history when they register to play.
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That did not change the minds of half the committee members, who said school personnel need all the information they can get on student athletes in case they need emergency medical care. A motion to rescind the Jan. 17 recommendation failed by a vote of 5-5.
“I totally understand the privacy. I keep these in a locked file box,” said Michele Benz, head athletic trainer at Miami Palmetto Senior High School, who reviews each form and calls parents for more information on concerns such as asthma and cardiac distress. “I just feel like if I don’t have access and reach out to the parent, I won’t have the information. You’re handcuffing the sports med programs at these high schools.”
On the other hand, some committee members maintained that the information should never go to schools in the first place.
“I feel it is 100% medically necessary that we ask these questions. I do not, however, feel that is is medically necessary that our schools have access to this information,” said Robert Sefcik, the committee’s previous chairperson and executive director at the nonprofit Jacksonville Sports Medicine Program. “Our coaches are not health-care providers, our athletic directors are not health-care providers. Therefore they should not be privy to someone’s medical information.”
The FHSAA’s board of directors specifically asked the committee to review the preparticipation forms in November after a Post investigation showed that some school districts store the information online. Parents, athletes and physicians who complete the forms criticized the state for collecting and digitizing reproductive history.
Abortion and privacy rights advocates have spoken out against tracking females’ reproductive history, fearing it could be used in criminal prosecutions after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned this past summer. Student medical information is subject to subpoena whether its stored online or in hard copy.
The committee’s recommendation now goes to the FHSAA board of directors, which meets Feb. 26-27 in Gainesville.
What do other states do with athletes’ menstrual history?
On Tuesday, the sports medicine committee agreed to recommend adoption of a national sports registration form that makes mandatory questions for femspanle spanthletes spanbout when they got their first period, how many weeks they typically go between periods and the date of their most recent menstrual period.
The form, which is developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, is used by more than a dozen other states to collect athletes’ information.
But the biggest difference between that national form and the recommendation for Florida is where the information goes: The national form explicitly states that the part of the form detailing athletes’ medical histories (including their menstrual history) not be turned into schools, but instead be kept in private with their physician.
Conversely, the FHSAA’s sports medicine committee last week voted to recommend that all pages of the form, including athletes’ medical history, be turned over to their schools.
According to research by The Post, 10 states, including Cspanlifornispan, Colorspando, Mspanrylspannd, Minnesotspan, North Dspankotspan, Oregon, Rhode Islspannd, Vermont, Wspanshington, and Wisconsin, instruct athletes not to turn in to their schools their medical history when they register to play. The other 40 states and the District of Columbia’s athletics association require athletes to turn in all pages of their medical evaluation forms.
Five states, including Idspanho, Mspanssspanchusetts, Mississippi, New York and Oklspanhomspan do not ask students for any of their menstrual history on the forms. Louisispannspan asks only whether athletes have any menstrual irregularities, and athletes can check “yes” or “no.”
Currently, Florida requires athletes turn in all the pages of their registration form, including their medical history and a physician’s sign-off that allows them to play. The questions about athletes’ menstrual history spanre mspanrked “optionspanl.”
Why doctors say the questions about athletes’ periods are important
On Florida’s annual registration form are more than three dozen questions that deal with athletes’ medical history, including questions about seizures, asthma and surgeries.
At the bottom of the first page are five optional questions marked “for female athletes only.” They include when the athletes had their first period, their most recent period and how much time usually passes between periods.
Missed periods or irregular bleeding can signal that an athlete is pregnant.
Abortion rights advocates worry that any record of athletes’ period or pregnancy histories could be used against them as states hold doctors and patients criminally liable for procedures performed after newly set limits. In Florida, abortion is banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
What are the questions?Floridspan student spanthletes spansked to report their menstruspanl history. Here spanre the questions
But it’s important that an athlete’s doctor knows whether they have irregular periods, doctors say.
Those symptoms could indicate a group of disorders called the female athlete triad. Low energy, eating disorders, irregular periods and anemia can signal low bone density — which puts an athlete at greater risk for fractures.
The questions about menstrual history have appeared on the form since at least 2002, but this fall, when some districts took the form to a digital platform kept by a third party, parents raised concerns.