Pennsylvania distance alumnus Jennifer Malcolm (Villa Maria Academy/Bucknell University) has been researching the menstrual irregularities of female high school cross country runners since 2005 as part of her medical degree pursuit and has found some hard facts on this growing problem.
But she needs some help and is asking this year's group of high school girls to participate in an online, anonymous, survey to help her continue her research. She has conducted surveys the past few years and this fall's survey will launch the weekend of August 11th. You may begin participation at any time.
Malcolm, who was a regular medalist in the 4x800 and DMR at state and the Penn Relays with former team members Liz O'Connor, Lauren Graham and her sister, Kim, is currently a fourth-year medical student at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine.
She graduated Bucknell with a Bachelor of Science degree in cell biology/biochemistry and as one of legendary coach Art Gulden's last recruits and ended her career with a 1,500 PR at the Patriot League Championships and as a four-year member of the Patriot League Honor Roll.
Along with keeping busy with her research and working towards her medical degree (she wants to pursue a career in family medicine/sports medicine), Malcolm has moved to Grovetown, Ga., with her fiance, Tim Carey. She's still running because she said "it is the one thing that keeps me sane during the crazy hours of a medical student's life" and hopes to soon run a marathon.
Below Malcolm provides some further insight on her survey and how runners may take part in it:
PT: Please describe the project.
JM: This project is designed to measure the incidence of menstrual irregularities in high school cross country runners; assess the adequacy of pre-season screening for menstrual irregularities; and to determine the level of education of high school athletes regarding menstrual irregularities.
Menstrual dysfunction is an important issue with women long distance runners and may have a long-term impact on the health of these athletes. Our goal is to determine if high school cross-country runners are at increased risk of menstrual irregularities, as well as assess the adequacy of screening and education on menstrual dysfunctions.
This is a volunteer study involving an online questionnaire. The study is strictly confidential. The runners will not indicate their name or school on the questionnaire.
The initial survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete, and athletes will be asked to keep a log of their menstrual cycles during the 2007 cross country season. The log is also online and requires less than 5 minutes of their time each month. The links to the pre-season questionnaire and the August menstrual log can be found below. Runners can copy these links into their browser to access the study if they are interested in participating.
PT: How did you come up with the project?
JM: Dr. Christor Mehallo, DO, a sports medicine physician associated with the Rothman Institute who I am working voluntarily with, and I are both runners and we were interested in researching an issue important to cross country. Although menstrual irregularities and the female athlete triad have been studied in elite athletes, few have looked at such problems in the younger populations.
PT: How long have you been working on the project?:
JM: We came up with the idea in the fall of 2004 and started the first data collection in 2005.
PT: What types of outcomes have you had so far?
JM: Thus far, we have seen a correlation between mileage and intensity of training with menstrual irregularities, though our numbers at this time are not statistically significant.
43 percent of athletes were asked specifically about menstrual irregularities during their pre-participation physical, a number we hope will improve.
80 percent of athletes are aware that participation in athletics can put them at increased risk for menstrual irregularities, with physicians, parents and coaches being the most common sources of this information. We were surprised and happy with how many individuals were aware of such issues.
More than 25 percent of athletes skipped their period in the month prior to cross country start. More data is needed to determine the percentage of missed periods/menstrual irregularities during the entire cross country season.
PT: Where is the project going right now and what is the plan for it in the future?
JM: The 2007 cross country season will be the last season we will be collecting data for this research study. We hope that the number of participants this year will give us statistically significant data. We hope to present this research at sports medicine conferences and perhaps write an article for publication in order to inform more people of these menstrual irregularities in high school aged cross country runners.
PT: In what ways would like you to involve high school and/or college female runners/athletes?
JM: This study is geared toward high school athletes. We hope that female high school cross country runners of all levels will find that this study is important to the safety of their sport and health of their athletes. We hope that in recognizing the importance of this health issue, more girls will be willing to volunteer for the study. Every high school female cross country runner is eligible and the study is completely confidential. It consists of one fifteen minute survey before the season begins and one menstrual log which takes less than 5 minutes to complete each month of the season.
PT: How can interested females contact you?
JM: Girls or coaches interested in the study can contact me at Jennifermal@pcom.edu <mailto:Jennifermal@pcom.edu> They should title the email "Interested in Your Study" or "Cross Country Survey"
PT: When do they need to contact you?
JM: The sooner the better. We hope to have all the pre-season surveys completed by September so that athletes only have to focus on the short menstrual logs during their season. There is no set deadline of when to contact me since many pre-season practices do not begin until August 13th, but the sooner they do, the better it will be. The survey opens August 11th.
PT: Will they receive feedback on the results?
JM: Data collection will be completed during the month of December, so athletes should hear from me in the spring with the results.
PT: In what ways are you hoping this project will help to advance yourself professionally as well as a female runner?
JM: I am very interested in sports medicine and hope to continue to be involved in research throughout my medical career. This study has been an excellent experience for me and has certainly taught me many of the obstacles in the research field. I have thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and hope to continue to be involved in sports medicine research and at some point be able to publish some of my work. My passion will always be running, so this research is an opportunity to take something I love and pair it with my career. This is a fantastic opportunity and a way to keep my passion always with me.