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Get the Facts

Seek up-to-date, accurate information about body health, food, and self esteem for parents, coaches and athletes.

"Female athletes in pursuit of excellence in their chosen sport must also protect their long-term health. The risks of developing the Female Athlete Triad disorders…can be minimized by proper nutrition and training practices."
-Dr. Connie Lebrun, Director, Primary Care Sport Medicine, Fowler & Kennedy Sport Medicine Clinic, University of Western Ontario

Waseem's seventeen-year-old daughter Indira had been training with a competitive running club for nearly five years. Waseem noticed that many of his daughter's teammates seemed worried about their bodies and staying thin. They avoided any foods that had fat in them and ate only very small portions. Waseem also noticed that a few of the girls had been injured with stress fractures. Knowing that girls Indira’s age were supposed to have strong bones, this seemed strange to him. Indira also told her dad that some of the other runners had stopped having their menstrual periods. One of the girls had told Indira that losing your period was normal when you trained as hard as they did. Feeling worried, Waseem expressed his concerns to Indir's coach, who was also concerned about the athletes' health. Together, they went to see a sports medicine physician who told them it sounded as though some of the athletes were experiencing a medical condition called the Female Athlete Triad.

What coaches and parents can do

Did you know that… Between the ages of 9 and 16 years, it is normal and healthy for a female to gain (on average) between 2-5 kilos (5 - 10 pounds) each year and to grow as many as 28 cm. (10 inches) during those growing years.
-(National Center for Health Statistics)

Continue to educate yourself about healthy body image, natural body size, self-esteem, the Female Athlete Triad, disordered eating, healthy pubertal development, and other topics that affect the health and well-being of your athletes. Seek out professionals who can provide accurate and up-to-date information.

Encourage athletes to describe their experience in sport. Evaluate the long-term health benefits and risks of certain sporting practices that your athletes describe to you.

Avoid exposing athletes to specific materials on disordered eating. Studies have shown that educating athletes about the signs and symptoms of disordered eating may do more harm than good, giving at-risk athletes ideas about ways to control their weight. The most effective way to prevent disordered eating in athletes is to help them develop a positive body image, build self-esteem, and learn healthy ways to cope with stress.

BodySense Connection 

The Female Athlete Triad is:

  1. Disordered Eating - An athlete with disordered eating is preoccupied with food, exercise, or losing weight and usually doesn’t feel good about her body. She may skip meals, over-exercise, or use dangerous methods to get food out of her body.
  2. Amenorrhea - When an athlete over-trains, doesn’t eat properly or doesn’t have enough body fat, she may lose her menstrual period or not even begin to menstruate at all. Amenorrhea is when an athlete misses her period for at least 3 months or hasn’t had a menstrual period by age sixteen.
  3. Osteoporosis - Disordered eating and amenorrhea put female athletes at risk for osteoporosis- a weakening of the bones. The Female Athlete Triad can take away from her overall bone mass and make her susceptible to stress fractures, complete bone breaks and other complications.

If you believe an athlete is experiencing the Female Athlete Triad, seek assistance from a medical professional immediately.

Provide athletes with accurate information regarding nutrition, natural body size, and sports performance.

Model critical thinking. Challenge the images of athletes that you feel are unhealthy and non-representative of real athletes' bodies. Become media-literate and do not take weight-loss ads and articles in fitness magazines at face value. Consider what kinds of messages about weight, shape and size that these articles and ads are sending you and your athletes.

Be aware of your own limitations. Being a caring coach or parent does not mean that you have to have all the answers. If you or someone you care about is experiencing disordered eating, immediately seek the help of a professional, like a registered dietician or sports psychologist, who can support you and your athletes and help you find the answers you need.

Taking Action

  • Start a resource library in your club. 
    (like the BodySense mini-library) with information on anything related to health in sport. Keep it in a place where coaches and parents will use it.
  • Have resources for athletes, too.
    Collect age-appropriate articles on building healthy body image, goal setting, self-esteem, stress management, fueling your body, fun articles and interesting features (pre-screen for information on dieting and other harmful messages).
  • Invite a guest "expert" to speak at your club each season.
    Bring in a speaker to teach coaches, parents, and athletes about topics in sport psychology, athlete wellness, nutrition or disordered eating.