Female Athlete Triad: Problems Caused by Extreme Exercise and Dieting
Exercise is a wonderful thing for everyone, and especially girls and women of all ages. However, there are occasions when female athletes may focus on weight loss to an unhealthy degree, or establish an overly intensive exercise routine that overtaxes their systems. Not eating enough, or exercising too much can cause long-term damage to the health of even of the most devout female athlete – not to mention it may impair athletic performance or force some to stop exercising entirely.
Three most common conditions afflicting female athletes
Amenorrhea: Poor eating habits, combined with a low-calorie intake while making serious exercise demands of the body (or a low percentage of body fat in the first place) can lead to menstrual dysfunction. This is known as amenorrhea, a change in the body hormones that results in menstrual periods stopping. In addition to the obvious absence of menstrual periods, patients can experience other symptoms such as hair loss, headache, vision changes, excess facial hair, pelvic pain, and acne. Missing three or more periods is cause for concern and medical advice should be sought.
Disordered eating: Excessive exercise, combined with a fixation on weight (versus health), can lead to disordered eating habits such as crash diets, binge eating or fad diets – which can starve the body of the nutrients and energy it needs to deliver the demands being placed on it.
Premature Osteoporosis: A Lack of periods (see above) disrupts the body’s natural bone-building process and weakens the skeleton, making bones brittle and more likely to break.
Who’s at risk of these conditions?
Women and girls participating in sports where appearance is part of the judging process are heavily at risk of developing these conditions. Gymnastics and figure skating, for instance, are often prone to such skewed judging processes. Another example would be sports where marginal improvement is difficult to achieve and separates winners from losers – for example, long-distance running or rowing.
What helps drive the spread of these conditions?
Society and Advertising are leading contributors to people developing these conditions. Young girls and women have often subjected to ads depicting unrealistic (or even unattainable due to computer manipulation) body types, that cause young athletes to focus on their weight. In addition, well-meaning coaches and parents can put pressure on their athletes to perform, which is projected inwards in unhealthy ways.
How are these conditions treated?
A holistic approach is needed to tackle these conditions successfully, as they often have multiple sources and drivers. Often a family doctor is a good place to start, though a pediatrician, gynecologist, therapist, nutritionists and athletic trainers and coaches are often added to the team to ensure a healthy and long-lasting recovery.
Call Coastal Orthopedics today
All of us at Coastal Orthopedics want everyone to be safe when exercising and dieting! Call us today if you’re experiencing any pain after extream dieting and exercising.