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Medical News and Perspectives
February 1, 2006

Pediatricians Warned About Student Athletes' Risky Weight-Control Tactics

JAMA. 2006;295(5):486. doi:10.1001/jama.295.5.486

Pediatricians should be vigilant for signs of unhealthy weight-loss or weight-gain regimens in high school athletes, according to a new policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics. High school athletes participating in sports that emphasize leanness, including wrestling, cheerleading, weight-class football, and swimming, may resort to unhealthy activities to lose weight or gain muscle mass.

According to the policy, these risky weight-control behaviors may include restricting food intake, vomiting, overexercising, using diet pills, inappropriately taking prescribed stimulants or insulin, and using nicotine. Other measures include dehydration by restricting fluid intake or spitting or the use of rubber suits, steam baths, saunas, and diuretics or laxatives (Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. Pediatrics. 2005;116:1557-1564). Such practices may have serious health consequences, including delayed maturation, impaired growth, menstrual irregularities or loss of menses in female athletes, increased rate of infection, eating disorders, and depression.

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