Parents of girls who play sports have been teaming up to ask me about something called the female athlete triad. This week, let me see if I can put some points on the scoreboard by helping everyone learn about this topic.
The female athlete triad happens to many girls who play sports or exercise intensely. It is a combination of three conditions: an eating disorder, menstrual irregularities, and osteoporosis.
The female athlete triad can begin with the simple aim of losing weight for a sport, but over time it becomes excessive and can develop into an eating disorder.
That eating disorder causes decreased estrogen levels, which can cause irregular or missed periods. While there are certainly other reasons for a missed period, a parent should be concerned that its a result of female athlete triad if it is seen in conjunction with weight loss and athletics.
Decreased estrogen and poor nutrition mean lower calcium intake, which causes a weakening of the bones, loss of bone density, and improper bone formation. Those symptoms can lead to stress fractures, which may prematurely end your daughters athletic career.
Sports or activities that have a focus on weight reduction, such as gymnastics, figure skating, and ballet, can make your daughter more susceptible to the female athlete triad than other sports. Even in sports less concerned with body size, however, such as basketball or softball, the pressure to lose a few pounds could result in the disorder.
If you think your daughter is experiencing any of these symptomsweight loss, missed periods, or bone issuesplease talk to her doctor. The doctor can help, assisting her as part of a team that includes physical therapists, nutritionists, mental health specialists, coaches, and of course, you as her parents. The best approach to avoiding female athlete triad is prevention. Have your daughter keep track of her periods, stay on a regular schedule for all meals and snacks, and consider working with a dietitian or nutritionist to ensure that the correct amounts of various nutrients are still making it into her body.
Tips like this will, I hope, allow your daughter to win every time, when it comes to avoiding the female athlete triad.