Counseling & Psychological Services
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Athletes & Eating Disorders
What Coaches, Parents, and Teammates Need to Know
Involvement in organized sports can offer many benefits, such as improved self-esteem and body image and encouragement for individuals to remain active throughout their lives. Athletic competition, however, can also cause severe psychological and physical stress. When the pressures of athletic competition are added to an existing cultural emphasis on thinness, the risks increase for athletes to develop disordered eating. In a study of Division 1 NCAA athletes, over one-third of female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms placing them at risk for anorexia nervosa. Though most athletes with eating disorders are female, male athletes are also at risk – especially those competing in sports that tend to place an emphasis on the athlete’s diet, appearance, size, and weight requirements, such as wrestling, bodybuilding, crew, running, and football.
Risk Factors for Athletes:
Three factors have been thought to contribute to the odds that a person will be dissatisfied with his or her body:
Protective Factors for Athletes:
The Female Athlete Triad includes:
1) disordered eating, 2) loss of menstrual periods and 3) osteoporosis (loss of calcium resulting in weak bones). The lack of nutrition resulting from disordered eating can cause the loss of several or more consecutive periods. This in turn leads to calcium and bone loss, putting the athlete at greatly increased risk for stress fractures of the bones. Each of these conditions is a medical concern. Together they create serious health risks that may be lifethreatening. While any female athlete can develop the triad, adolescent girls are most at risk because of the active biological changes and growth spurts, peer and social pressures, and rapidly changing life circumstances that go along with the teenage years. Males may develop similar syndromes.
*All above information was obtained from National Eating Disorders Association's website at http://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org