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To estimate the prevalence of the female athlete triad (disordered eating, menstrual irregularity, and low bone mass) among high school athletes.
Observational cross-sectional study.
Female athletes (n= 170) representing 8 sports were recruited from 6 high schools in southern California.
Main Outcome Measures
Disordered eating and menstrual status were determined by interviewer-assisted questionnaires. Bone mineral density was measured by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry of the hip, spine (L1-L4), and total body.
Among all athletes, 18.2%, 23.5%, and 21.8% met the criteria for disordered eating, menstrual irregularity, and low bone mass, respectively. Ten girls (5.9%) met criteria for 2 components of the triad, and 2 girls (1.2%) met criteria for all 3 components. Oligomenorrheic/amenorrheic athletes had higher mean ± SD eating restraint (1.55 ± 1.60 vs 1.04 ± 1.27; P = .02) and Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire global scores (1.68 ± 1.20 vs 1.33 ± 1.14; P = .03) than eumenorrheic athletes. After controlling for age, age at menarche, body mass index, race/ethnicity, and sport type, athletes with oligomenorrhea/amenorrhea had significantly lower mean ± SD bone mineral densities for the trochanter (0.884 ± 0.090 g · cm−2) than eumenorrheic athletes (0.933 ± 0.130 g · cm−2; P = .04).
The prevalence of the full female athlete triad was low in our sample; however, a substantial percentage of the athletes may be at risk for long-term health consequences associated with disordered eating, menstrual irregularity, or low bone mass. Preparticipation screening to identify these components should be encouraged as a preventive approach to identify high-risk athletes.
Nichols JF, Rauh MJ, Lawson MJ, Ji M, Barkai H. Prevalence of the Female Athlete Triad Syndrome Among High School Athletes. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2006;160(2):137–142. doi:10.1001/archpedi.160.2.137
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