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Understanding the growing problem of eating disorders among athletes

Tweet Teen athletes who are dealing with anorexia nervosa face considerable challenges with their physical and mental well-being.

Sport and Eating Disorders - Understanding and Managing the Risks

Parents and coaches who are more involved with a teenage athlete can play an instrumental role in awareness and early interventions, particularly as many of the signs of an eating disorder can be easily overlooked or seen as part of dedication to a sport. Athletes who play certain sports may be at an increased risk for developing an eating disorder, particularly endurance sports or sports that emphasize a certain body type.

This might include dance, wrestling, distance running, diving, figure skating and gymnastics [1]. Recognizing Early Signs of Anorexia Nervosa Part of what can make it difficult to recognize the early signs of anorexia in a teenage athlete is that many of symptoms may be justified as part of training for the sport itself.

For example, an athlete who is over-exercising or following a rigid diet may attest to doing so as part of their athleticism and commitment to training. For parents and coaches of eating disorder sufferers, being aware of these early signs of anorexia nervosa can help identify the eating disorder and connect to intervention as soon as possible.

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Advertisement Teenagers who are potentially struggling with anorexia as an athlete may demonstrate some of the following signs and symptoms: Female teenage athletes who demonstrate some of these signs may also be at risk for the female athlete triadwhich is defined as the combination of disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis [2]. This can develop alongside anorexia nervosa and be devastating for a teenage female athlete, both physically and emotionally. When coaches, parents, athletic trainers, physicians, etc.

  • In some sports the measurement of body mass index or body weight can be an unreliable indicator of potential eating disorders;
  • The sports environment can add to these risks in several ways especially in endurance, weight category and aesthetic sports;
  • Family and twin studies have found heritability estimates of 76 percent for anorexia nervosa and 83 percent for bulimia nervosa;
  • The sports environment can add to these risks in several ways especially in endurance, weight category and aesthetic sports;
  • Eating disorder in athletes;
  • Prevention efforts should be best directed toward the at-risk groups, and correlates and risk factors should be accurately identified to enable primary prevention.

For a disease that is potentially life threatening, coaches and parents should continue to be informed and educated about the risks concerning anorexia nervosa among teenage athletes, as well as understand the potential signs and symptoms that may be exhibited. Seeking Comprehensive Care for Eating Disorders in Teen Athletes Many teenage athletes with anorexia nervosa may be reluctant to seeking out help and care for their eating disorder, though professional treatment interventions are a necessary part of the recovery and healing process.

As a coach or trainer, it may be helpful to have some eating disorder treatment referral resources readily available in the instance that a student athlete may need interventions. For parents, it may be beneficial to locate an eating disorder specialist who works with athletes and understands some of the unique challenges your child may be facing with their own eating disorder recovery.

A teenage athlete facing anorexia may also be concerned that they will not be able to play their sport again.

Prevention of eating disorders in female athletes

Because of the complexities associated with anorexia in teenage athletes, it is important to have a collaborative support among coaches, parents, and other professionals to ensure the most effective course for treatment. Combining clinical experience with a love of social media and writing, As a Certified Intuitive Eating Counselor, Crystal has dedicated her career to helping others establish a healthy relationship with food and body through her work with EDH and nutrition private practice.

The Female Athlete Triad. Jorunn Sundgot-Borgen, PhD, et al. Clin J Sport Med Volume 14, Number 1, January 2004 The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of eating disorders.

  1. It is best avoided.
  2. A professional athlete under a contract should be clear about what medical support will be provided, in what circumstances and what is expected in return. Coaches and other sport personnel are encouraged to improve their identification skills, as well as their skills in making an appropriate referral for an evaluation and treatment.
  3. As a coach or trainer, it may be helpful to have some eating disorder treatment referral resources readily available in the instance that a student athlete may need interventions. This term is used because it was first recognized among athletes.
  4. It is best avoided.
  5. Quality appraisal was conducted according to the NICE guidelines checklist [ 18 ].

These are not necessarily the views of Eating Disorder Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals. We at Eating Disorder Hope understand that eating disorders result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an eating disorder, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Published on August 5, 2017.

Eating Disorders in Athletes: Practical Tips for Parents