The Female Athletic Triad

What is it?
The athletic triad is composed of the three issues that tend to effect female athletes: amenorrhea, eating disorders, and osteoporosis. These three issues are of growing concern, especially due to the increasing pressure on adolescent girls to maintain an "ideal" body weight. Athletes are not immune to this kind of pressure. In fact, many sports easily lend themselves to further increasing the pressure that girls feel to be thin. Appearance and endurance sports such as gymnastics, dancing, diving, figure skating, swimming, and distance running are all sports in which girls frequently are concerned about their weight and appearance. This can lead to eating disorders, ranging from poor nutritional habits to anorexia and bulimia. Eating disorders can result in serious endocrine, skeletal, and psychiatric disorders.

The Three Components
Amenorrhea is the lack of menstrual periods. A larger number of female athletes have amenorrhea than the 5% of women in the general population with amenorrhea. Why athletes sometimes stop having their periods or stop having them regularly is not understood, but it is a well-known phenomenon. The decreased estrogen levels associated with amenorrhea may be the cause of premature osteoporosis found among female athletes. Several methods have been employed to treat premature osteoporosis, including reducing training intensity and nutritional counseling. It is very important for athletes to eat properly and to carefully monitor how much they train. Sometimes, excessive training is a sign of an eating disorder. Nutrition and training intensity are interconnected and both must be regulated to help ensure good health for the athlete.

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