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Fitness & Wellness

Menstruation, Doping and Injuries: Insights from RCB’s Dr. Harini Muralidharan

Dr Harini Priyadharshan Muralidharan, the Team Manager and Doctor of the Royal Challengers Bengaluru Women's Cricket team, offers her perspectives on the challenges faced by medical professionals and athletes, particularly female athletes, in maintaining their physical and mental well-being both on and off the pitch.

Menstruation, Doping and Injuries: Insights from RCB’s Dr. Harini Muralidharan

(Image Credits: Dr Harini/ IG)


Sukanya Adhikary

Updated: 16 April 2024 5:59 AM GMT

Sports science is at the forefront of improving athlete well-being, preventing injuries, and maximising athletic performance, both in India and abroad. In an exclusive conversation with The Bridge, Dr. Harini Muralidharan, Team Manager and Doctor of the RCB Women’s, talks about the physical well-being of athletes, especially in terms of menstruation among female athletes and the usage of performance enhancing drugs at the elite level.

Work-Life Balance

During her master's days in the UK, Dr. Harini had the opportunity to start an internship program at the Chelsea Football Club, before the COVID-19 lockdown period. There are a lot of disparities between India and other nations, like the UK, when it comes to the work-life balance of athletes, especially in the context of sports medicine. “One thing that you see- the hierarchy system is a lot different abroad- it is not determined by age or seniority, but more by knowledge.”

In India, the physiotherapist serves as the players’ primary care provider and frequently occupies a key position in the sports medicine division. On the other hand, in countries like the UK, athletes usually contact a doctor first, who then decides on the best course of treatment. “As long as the players get what they need to, and their treatment is done right,” Dr. Harini says, both structures are beneficial to athletes.

“Travel definitely has an impact,” when the athletes need to travel for long tournaments spanning over two to three months, the recovery time is very less. “We plan their load, we plan how they train going forward. So it's a bit of a balance. From a logistical standpoint, it is a nightmare to plan, but it's an amazing challenge as well. for a person like me who loves the adrenaline rush of new challenges every day, it's perfect,” Dr. Harini shares.

Female athletes and Menstruation

Besides being the Team Doctor, Dr Muralidharan’s role for the RCB women’s cricket team is one of a Manager. She has witnessed the evolution in women’s cricket and sports overall, and the increasing parity between men’s and women’s sports. However, among female athletes, talking about menstruation is still frowned upon. “They are uncomfortable discussing it, even with female doctors. There's still a lot of code language around it, a lot of indication, rather than direct sharing of information,” she said. That’s where the athletes' management systems come in handy, where they record the information online, the medical professionals can monitor the athletes' cycle on their behalf. But this is an option when the player stays for a longer period. For short-term athletes, the best way to help is by building rapport with them, “we try to understand what they are going through and try and be sensitive to that and just build that friendship, build that rapport,” Dr Harini said, “and if they don't want to share, it's completely okay. As long as they are able to play, they are able to take care of themselves.”

As a Manager, it is crucial to provide the players with the support they need both on and off the field, especially when it comes to female athletes experiencing cramps during the cycle. Athletes are driven by self-motivation while they are competing, hence, “they could have the worst injury possible, and still want to get back on the field immediately.” It is thus very important to make them aware of serious injuries and advise them to refrain from playing under these circumstances.


Doping has always been a serious issue, and athletes as well as doctors need to be extra cautious to avoid such acts. Oftentimes, athletes may consume substances without the knowledge of the components present in them. The National Anti-Doping Agency provides a session to the players at the start of every tournament to explain the rules. These awareness campaigns help athletes to stay alert. “There is Global DRO which can be put into anyone’s phone. There is a website where they can check the components of the drug that they're using, make sure that it's safe before they take it,” shared Dr Muralidharan.

Sports and Exercises Scientists (SES) Network

Dr Harini has been a part of the SES Network for over two years, “I watched the webinars and about 2 years ago, they had put out a posting that they're trying to expand their team.” The SES Network, initiated by a group of sports science specialists from Sri Ramachandra University, has made great progress in promoting collaboration and networking within the sports and science community. The Network has developed into a thorough platform over the last five years, bringing together professionals from different facets of the sports world. The network started with monthly online webinars during the COVID-19 lockdown period to sustain scientific inquiry in unpredictable times.

India's sports industry is expanding daily, providing a great opportunity for individuals interested in sports science and management. Institutions offer a variety of training programmes, and professionals are also demanded. “I think there are a number of internships available as well. Because either medicine or operations, I think, at the end of the day, what you are studying in a textbook and what you actually handle in reality, are worlds apart,” Dr Harini shares.

Even though sports science has gained momentum in India, there remains scope for further advancement. India can utilise sports science to the fullest, by enhancing public knowledge of sports science concepts, providing infrastructure and funding to support research and development, and encouraging collaborative research among sports professionals. This would improve athletic performance, lower the rate of injuries, and cultivate a culture of sports excellence.

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