I listened to a webinar the other day regarding the Female Athlete Triad that stirred up all kinds of thoughts. Having been a former athlete who went through this, it’s a topic that is of extreme interest to me. If you are a female athlete, a concerned coach, friend and/or parent of one, then this might resonate for you…
The Female Athlete Triad, originally a term that was coined in the early 90’s, defines a phenomenon that occurs in some female athletes, particularly those in appearance, lean or weight-based sports, where the following are considered:
- Energy availability – is she eating enough/getting enough nutrients into her system?
- Menstrual function – what is her menstrual history and current cycle?
- Bone mineral density – is she getting injured a lot (i.e.: stress fractures)?
One, two or all of these factors can be linked to a higher risk in eating disorders, amenorrhea (absence/3 month or more disruption in menstrual flow) and osteoporosis.
What struck me the most as I was listening to this webinar, is that I’m not sure if our sporting communities have a solid understanding, awareness to this issue or access to the tools needed so that we can prevent these issues in our young girls.
Consider the statistics:
- Disordered eating is seen in 16 – 52% of athletes. Intentional or unintentional behaviours of disordered eating include: severely limiting food intake, constant counting or calories and fat grams, constantly weighing and measuring food, etc.
- Appearance of amenorrhea in athletes can be as high as 66%.
Towards the end of my competitive years in Judo, I WAS those statistics. The Triad was not even a term that existed back then. I wonder if things would have been different if I had known the risks…
What do you think? Should there be regular screening and assessments to identify those at risk? Particularly those in the risk groups of ages 9 – 16 and in lean or appearance based sports? Should we be looking at a girl’s eating patterns, injury history and menstrual cycle?
Maybe preventative measures already exists? If so, what has been your experience? I’d love to hear about what is currently being done and if there are ideas out there.