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Disordered Eating as a Symptom of Female Athlete Triad

Essay by   •  September 21, 2011  •  Case Study  •  2,281 Words (10 Pages)  •  1,613 Views

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This paper is all about a scarcely known and obscure disorder called the Female Athlete Triad. This is the combination of three (3) interconnected conditions that are associated with athletic training: disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis.

Patients with disordered eating may engage in a wide range of harmful behaviors, from food restriction to bingeing and purging, to lose weight or maintain a thin physique (Hobart, et al, 2000). This means that most girls with female athlete triad try to eagerly lose weight as a way to improve their athletic performance.

This disorder is quite long and broad, so the researcher decided to focus more on disordered eating for this can happen unintentionally or intentionally. Emphasis on disordered eating, rather than eating disorders is indeed interesting too.

The aim of this paper is to let the public, maybe not all but to some, be aware of such disorder since this often goes unrecognized especially here in the Philippines. This may also be a good help to my fellow athletes, for this may happen to us at any time.

This also aims to provide certain amount of information based on my thesis statement: Disordered eating, a symptom of female athlete triad, is caused by a potential yet harmful drive in needing to maintain a low body mass for athletic performance. That statement tries to briefly answer the following questions:

1. What are the symptoms of Female Athlete Triad?

2. What are the forms of disordered eating?

3. How harmful is this disorder to the female athletes' bodies?

This research paper is stimulated and similar to one family practice physical named Anuradha R. Rangarajan. Female athletes, especially those who participate in sports activities that emphasize low body mass, run the risk of developing three conditions that, left unchecked, can have irreversible life-long consequences. She also is convinced that more young women athletes are out there with unidentified symptoms. Many teens are actively involved with sports. If there is suspicion the condition may exist, it never hurts to ask.

On the contrary, just like Dr. Rangarajan, the significance of this paper is not just for better awareness of the barely known disorder but to put accent on disordered eating. This paper may also answer a series of questions designed to help identify the syndrome on students performing check-ups and athletic evaluations in schools. Increased education of parents, coaches and athletes in the health risks of the disorder can prevent a potentially life-threatening illness.


Sports and exercise are part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle. People who play sports are healthier and get better grades are less likely to experience depression and use alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs less frequently than people who aren't athletes. But for some girls, not balancing the needs of their bodies and their sports can have major consequences. Some girls who play sports or exercise intensely are at risk for a problem called female athlete triad.

Within the last decade, physicians and researchers have discovered that three (3) disorders found in the female athletic population are frequently interrelated as components of female athlete triad (Rumbal, et. al, 2002). This means that women's participation in sports greatly expanded and so is this disorder discovered and studied even more.

There has been an increased awareness of new conditions and pathologies unique to this population. This also means that the female athletes have made a lot of progress in the past 30 years. But those with a spirited drive to be the best in sports that emphasize a low body weight may run a risk of experiencing a trio of conditions that together can have a significant impact on their physical condition for the rest of their lives. The triad can begin with disordered eating patterns, intentional or unintentional, which can then progress to menstrual disorders, and finally to decreased bone density and osteoporosis. Therefore, the disorder consists of menstrual disorders, bone defects and disordered eating.

Menstrual disorders such as the amenorrhea refer to women having estrogen loss, higher concentrations of growth hormone and cortisol, and lower concentrations of leptin, insulin, and triiodothyronine (Birch, 2005). These hormones refer to one's metabolism that greatly affects the athlete's nutrition. In other words, the energy availability lowers over a period of time. This means that the menstrual cycle of these female athletes are "switched off" or held back to save energy.

Bone defects such as the osteoporosis and osteopenia are parts of the third symptom. A decrease in the levels of estrogen and reproductive function can affect bone density as well. This means that when a young athlete presents with amenorrhea, she may have lost bone mass that had already accumulated, or may have failed to lay down the normal amount of bone that is gained during her critical years.

Disordered eating refers then to an athlete's potentially motivation by a must to keep a low body mass for performance. This means that the female athlete may take in and out anything just to make sure they maintain a specific body weight and shape fitted for their sport.

Females are said to be five to 10 times more likely to have disordered eating compared with males, and the problem is especially common in females who are athletic (AAOS, 2009). This means that females are on higher and fatal risks of the disorder than on men.

Although the female athletes usually do not realize or admit that they are ill, people with disordered eating have serious and complex disturbances in eating behaviors. Patients with disordered eating may engage in a wide range of harmful behaviors, from food restriction to bingeing and purging, to lose weight or maintain a thin physique (Hobart, et al, 2000). This means that they are always pre-occupied with body shape and weight and have poor nutritional habits. This also means that they may eat the food and vomit it afterwards. They may also refuse to eat caused by fear of gaining weight. People with disordered eating may also exercise excessively to keep their weight down.

Although the exact prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad is not known, disordered eating behavior has been identified in 15 to 62 percent of female college athletes (Rangarajan, 2009). The illness takes many forms. The disordered eating that accompanies female athlete triad can range from avoiding certain types of food the athlete thinks



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