In order to participate in organized sports, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is mandating that all female student-athletes in the state provide comprehensive information about their periods.
EVALUATION: False. A recommendation from an advisory committee is being considered by the Florida High School Athletic Association, but no final decision has been made. The association is a private nonprofit organization and not a state agency under the governor’s jurisdiction, but DeSantis’ education commissioner is a member of the board of directors and appoints three others.
LES FACTS: People on social media are suggesting that the conservative Republican governor, who has been a vocal opponent of transgender athletes, is using sports to stir up controversy once more as he considers running for president in 2024.
“BREAKING: Ron DeSantis wants menstrual data from female student athletes. This is crazy! one Twitter user wrote in a post.
Ron DeSantis says: It is against the law for the government to instruct federal employees to wear masks. Moreover, Ron DeSantis: In a post that had been liked or shared more than 3,000 times as of Friday, another Twitter user wrote, “The government has every right to know when every single high school girl has her period.” Ron DeSantis is a complete liar and the epitome of hypocrisy!
However, the proposed mandate was not created by DeSantis’s office and has not received final approval.
On health forms required to participate in sports, Florida currently asks female high school athletes to provide information about their menstrual cycle, but this is not required.
The association’s spokesperson, Ryan Harrison, confirmed that its sports medicine advisory committee developed and approved the new recommendations at the end of January. The association board of directors will now consider it at its upcoming meeting on February 26-27 in Gainesville.
The association is acknowledged as the state’s official interscholastic sports governing body. DeSantis appointed a representative for the state Education Commissioner’s office, Manny Diaz, to its board. Additionally, Diaz selects three others to join the 16-member board.
Emails seeking comment from DeSantis and Diaz’s offices were not returned this week; however, Harrison emphasized that the proposed changes are not in response to concerns regarding transgender athletes participating in women’s sports, as some social media users assert.
In an email, he stated, “There is absolutely no support of the argument that their recommendation is aimed at addressing an individual group of people.”
Female athletes are asked five questions about their periods on the current Preparticipation Physical Evaluation Form that is required to be completed by a student and their physician and kept on file at their school. All of the questions are listed as optional.
The questions, which association officials claim have been on the form for at least two decades, include when a student had their first menstrual period, when their most recent period was, how long the period typically lasts, how many periods they have had in the past year, and the longest period in the past year.
The proposed changes to the form include four required questions about menstruation, such as whether the student has ever had a period, the age at which they had their first period, the date of their most recent period, and the number of periods they have had in the past year.
According to Robert Sefcik, a member of the sports medicine advisory committee, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Sports Medicine, and other organizations’ national guidelines for sports physicals support making the menstrual cycle questions mandatory rather than optional.
He stated that doctors conducting sports physicals have access to an “extremely credible resource” thanks to a form that has been reviewed and published by national organizations.
The national guidelines state that menstrual history is an “essential discussion for female athletes” because period abnormalities could be a sign of “low energy availability, pregnancy, or other gynecologic or medical conditions.” Sefcik, who was the committee’s previous chairperson and voted in favor of the recommendations, wrote in an email, “We appreciate the medical necessity of the questions, including menstrual history, that are included on this form and support their inclusion on the form.”
The guidelines stated, “Menstrual dysfunction is 2-3 times more common in athletes than in nonathletes, and 10-15% of female athletes have amenorrhea (loss of menstrual cycle) or oligomenorrhea” Players of sports that emphasize leanness, such as running, gymnastics, cheerleading, dance, and figure skating, are more likely to experience amenorrhea.