Members of the Academy of Eating Disorders (AED) are available to comment on the Female Athlete Triad and the International Journal of Eating Disorders article.
The Female Athlete Triad is the combination of disordered eating, absence of menstrual periods, and bone loss that can affect girls and women. The Triad is especially prevalent in elite athletes struggling with eating disorders. Worldwide, 1% of girls suffer from anorexia nervosa, 1-13% of girls suffer from bulimia nervosa, and a potentially greater number struggle with disordered eating that does not fit into either category (This group is what we now call Eating Disorders Not Otherwise Specified). As many as two out of three college athletes report disordered eating and girls and women with Olympic ambitions may engage in unhealthy weight control strategies in a misguided attempt to improve performance. For example, a recently published study of elite Norwegian athletes (Torstveit & Sundgot-Borgen, 2005) found that 4.3% met criteria on all three of the Female Athlete Triad components and that the number was substantially higher when two of the three criteria were met. For example, 26.9% of the Norwegian athletes met criteria for disordered eating and menstrual dysfunction and 10.2% had disordered eating and low bone mass.
The new position statement from the Olympic Committee comes right as we move into the winter Olympics and provides an important reminder about the health of female athletes.
The International Olympic Committee's Medical Commission, which is the sport governing body at the highest level of sport competition, has confirmed: 1) the seriousness of the medical and psychological consequences of the Female Athlete Triad; 2) the need for specialized approaches to its identification, management, treatment, and prevention based on issues that are unique to the sport environment; and 3) the health of the athlete takes precedence over athletic performance.
The full text of the Olympic Committee Medical Commission Working Group "Women in Sport" Position stand on the female athlete triad can be found at http://multimedia.olympic.org/pdf/en_report_917.pdf.
Article: "Practical Use of the International Olympic Committee Medical Commission Position Stand on the Female Athlete Triad," by Roberta Trattner Sherman and Ron A. Thompson, International Journal of Eating Disorders; Published Online: February 9, 2006 (DOI: 10.1002/eat.20232).
The Academy of Eating Disorders is an organization comprised of professionals dedicated to the best-practice, evidence-based care of individuals suffering from eating disorders. The AED supports the Olympic Committee in highlighting this very real risk to our Olympic level and recreational athletes.
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