Regulating Bodies: Reporting Menstruation in Florida

The impact of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade is now showing itself in high schools. The Florida High School Athletics Association (FHSAA) sports medicine advisory committee recommended that high school athletes be required to submit their menstrual history as a part of an annual sports registration form. The form would be submitted directly to the school instead of their healthcare provider. The committee suggested that the potential changes are based on guidance from groups like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Dr. Rebecca Carl, the chair-elect of the AAP’s Council on Sports Medicine & Fitness, stated that the FHSAA is not following its guidance.

The physical evaluation form revisions would include mandatory questions such as if the student has ever had a period, the age of their first period, how many periods they have had in the last year, and the date of their most recent period. The AAP recommends forms that doctors can use to evaluate potential athletes, but only a medical eligibility form is meant to be submitted to a school or sports team.

Parents, students, medical professionals, and lawmakers alike have expressed outrage over this most recent proposal. Personal medical information would be in the hands of the schools, and it would be up to the public school district to determine where that information would be stored. Would it be in an unsecured file cabinet in someone’s office or the cloud of a third-party document administrator? The schools are not subject to HIPAA, the federal privacy regulations that govern the healthcare industry. That means each student’s sensitive data would be at risk of exposure via a potential data breach.

Opponents of the changes believe that the questions target athletes that may have abortions and transgender athletes. Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, signed a bill in 2021 restricting participation in girls’ sports to athletes that were identified as female at birth. In 2022 he signed a bill banning abortion after 15 weeks (about three and a half months) of pregnancy. The information submitted on those forms could be used to prosecute students who have abortions after the 15-week limit and assist in identifying transgender athletes.

The FHSAA’s president John Gerdes insisted that politics did not play a role in the committee’s decision for the recommended form revisions and policy changes despite their alignment with the recently passed bills.

These proposed changes faced nationwide backlash, and the FHSAA voted on February 9, 2023, to recommend that the medical history form stay with the medical provider. Questions regarding menstruation have also been removed. The updated medical eligibility form does, however, now require that students provide the sex in which they were assigned at birth, not just their sex.