Athletes are among the quickest, strongest, most flexible people in the world, so one would expect them to adhere to the latest health and fitness information, right? Not always. The problem is that the athletes often believe that more fit equals less fat. The death of Olympic gymnast Christy Henrich from anorexia nervosa began to bring the topic of athletes and eating disorders to the forefront. Research into the topic of eating disorders and athletes shows a few interesting findings. Most of the studies focus on women and specific sports, namely gymnastics, figure skating, diving, and other weight-dependent sports. Some research, however, shows prevelance findings of eating disorders in female athletes congruent with the general population.
FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD
The female athlete triad of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis affects many active women, especially those in sports that emphasize appearance or leanness. Physical signs and symptoms include unexplained recurrent or stress fracture, dry hair, low body temperature, lanugo, and fatigue (Joy, Clark, Ireland, Martire, Nattiv, and Varechok, 1997). Prevalence of the triad is hard to assess because data is limited to a few studies. In the United States, studies suggest, (based on limited data) a prevalence in female athletes between 15 percent and 62 percent (Dummer, Rosen, Heusner, et. al 1987; Rosen, Hough 1988; Rosen, McKeag, Hough, et. al, 1986). Women who have the triad can typically be characterized as being a perfectionist with high goals, being very critical of herself and having very high expectations, and having fairly low self esteem (Nattiv, 1997). Most of the women with the triad ar...
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...ician and Sportsmedi5, 95-109.
O'Connor, P., Lewis, R., Kirchner, E., & Cook, D. (1996). Eating Disorder Symptoms in Former Female College Gymnasta: Relations With Body Composition. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition , 64, 840-846.
Petri, T., & Stoever S. (1993). The Incidence of Bulimia Nervosa and Pathogenic Weight Control Behaviors in Female College Gymnasts. Research Quarterly in Exercise and Sport , 56, 245-250.
Rhea, D., Jambor, E., Wiginton, K. (1996). Preventing Eating Disorders in Female Athletes. Journal of Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance,
Rosen, L., & Hough, D. (1988). Pathogenic Weight Control Behaviors in Female College Gymnasts. Physician and Sportsmedicine , 16, 141-146.
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