Monday, June 20, 2016

Preventing Disordered Eating in Athletes

Preventing Disordered Eating in Athletes
Disordered eating (DE) in athletes can be defined as inadequate eating and weight control behaviors. Because of the high demands of athletics, athletes are more likely to suffer from a DE. Disordered eating can cause adverse affects on health and athletic performance. Proper education about the signs, symptoms, effects to the body, and risk factors can reduce the likelihood of an athlete to suffer from a DE. DE is a serious condition that should be taken as such, proper managing of this disorder can be a lifesaving measure 1.  
Clinically Diagnosed Disorders
There are three clinically diagnosed eating disorders; anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and eating disorder not otherwise specified.  Anorexia nervosa can be defined as someone who severely restricts the amount of food that they intake to prevent weight loss or continue losing weight. Bulimia nervosa is a condition where someone binges on large amounts of food then purging immediately after to prevent weight gain.  The last clinically diagnosed eating disorder is called eating disorder not otherwise specified; this condition is one that does not meet the criteria of the other two. It can be a mix of both disorders or eating behaviors not characterized by either.
Educating athletes about DE is the first step to preventing them. Mandatory educational programs for athletes, coaches, and athletic training staff should be implemented annually. Information that should be covered in the educational program are; early signs and symptoms, how to detect someone with DE, the medical complications, and what resources are available to help an athlete who might suffer from one.  “However, fewer than 41% of Division I athletic programs make such education a requirement” (as cited in Beals, 2003).  Also proper nutrition and eating habits should be taught to all athletes in order to prevent medical issues and improve athletic performance. Female athletes should be informed of the effects eating disorders have on menses and the effects of menstrual irregularities have on athletic performance. If an athlete is properly informed that DE will harm their athletic performance and not improve their performance, they may become less likely to suffer from an eating disorder.  Open, non-judgmental, and truthful discussions about DE will lower the barriers to help athletes be more willing to come forward and seek help (as cited in Becker, 2004).   Educating children from a young age about DE and other nutritional problems is another prevention method. Also screening methods can be used to determine if an athlete has DE symptoms such as medical history review, physical exam, menstrual history review, and a mental health evaluation1.

Bonci, C., Bonci, L., Granger, L., Johnson, C., Malina, R., Milne, L., Ryan, R., Vanderbunt, E. (2008). National Athletic Trainers' Association Position Statement: Preventing, Detecting, and Managing Disordered Eating in Athletes. Journal of Athletic Training, 43(1), 80-108.

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