The Three Elements of the Female Athlete Triad

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The Three Elements of the Female Athlete Triad

For an increasing number of women in the United States, a concern or preoccupation with body weight and size is a constant pressure. Female athletes, like most women in our society, are also often pressured to conform to certain ideal body sizes and shapes, as dictated by the entertainment and fashion industries. Female athletes, however, face a twofold pressure. They face the burden that our culture places on all women to be thin, but they also face the burden from coaches, parents, and other athletes to succeed in sports and look good doing so by maintaining an unrealistically low weight. When weight gain means removal from a team or elimination from competition, many female athletes turn to dangerous food restriction and excessive exercise. This pressure to achieve or maintain unrealistically low body weight underlies the development of a syndrome recently named the Female Athlete Triad. First identified by the American College of Sports Medicine in 1992, the Female Athlete Triad consists of three medical disorders commonly found in female athletes: disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. Alone each disorder is dangerous; in combination the triad disorders are potentially fatal.

Eating Disorders in Female Athletes

Before evaluating the available studies on the prevalence of disordered eating among female athletes, it is necessary to recognize the many limitations and problems that arise with such studies. First of all, there are a limited number of studies on this segment of females and their eating patterns. Also, many of these studies rely on self-reporting surveys, which inherently may be flawed due to the fact that many athletes may deny disordered eating b...

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