Menstrual and Eating Disorders Among NCAA Athletes

Reprinted from Eating Disorders Review
September/October 2004 Volume 15, Number 5
©2004 Gürze Books

Menstrual disorders are one clue to undiagnosed eating disorders among elite female athletes, according to the results of a recent study at the University of Oklahoma, Tulsa. In a study of 1,445 student athletes from 11 Division-1 schools, Kristy M. Griffith, MD, and colleagues found lower anthropometric measures and higher rates of amenorrhea among two groups, cross-country runners and gymnasts. The study was reported at the 2004 annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association.

Nearly 70% had disordered eating patterns

The gymnasts and cross-country runners had higher rates of amenorrhea (gymnasts, 60.6% and cross-country runners, 59.8%) than athletes in other sport categories. In addition, gymnasts reached menarche at a later age than all other female athlete groupsthe athletes’ mean age at menarche was 15.2 years. Gymnasts who had amenorrhea at any time had a significantly lower current body fat percentage (mean: 13.4%) than gymnasts without a history of amenorrhea.

Cross-country runners had a significantly longer duration of amenorrhea (mean: 8.6 months) and a lower body mass index (mean: 18.0) when they were amenorrehic than women in other sports. The age at which they reached their lowest weight while amenorrheic was 15.9 years, and the mean age at which they began restricting food was 14.3 years. The amenorrheic runners also had a mean body fat of 9.0%.

Seventy percent of the amenorrheic athletes in both sports were found to have disordered eating behavior.

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