The Female Athlete Triad - Are You at Risk?
The female athlete triad is a devastating health problem facing females in athletics and sports today. The triad is a syndrome involving nutritional deficits, lack of a menstrual cycle, and issues with bone health.
The triad is defined by the American College of Sports Medicine as, “interrelationships among energy availability, menstrual function, and bone mineral density, which may have clinical manifestations including eating disorders, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, and osteoporosis.”
Populations most at risk for the triad are usually females participating in sports where lower body weight is optimal, including running, weightlifting, biking, cross country, gymnastics, figure skating, ballet, diving, swimming, and endurance sports. Societal pressure of an “ideal body type” can foster the development of low self esteem and negative body issues associated with the triad. Intense scrutiny, pressure in competition, weigh-ins, and social isolation may perpetuate an environment that can increase the risk for developing the triad. Many athletes do not meet all of the criteria for the triad but may manifest the disorder and behaviors as part of a syndrome.
Three Components of the Female Athlete Triad Defined
- Lower energy levels, fatigue, excessive tiredness, and problems sleeping.
- Eating issues including low calorie and or low fat diet, obsessive eating patterns and strange diets, and weight loss.
- Physical changes including; hair loss, dry skin, cold extremities, frequent colds, infections, or illnesses.
- Irregular or absent menstrual cycle.
- Recurrent sports related injuries, bone breaks, and stress fractures.
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