Let’s talk athletes and eating disorders (ED or EDs). I think this topic will be very important to many of our teen clients, as well as their parents, and hopefully their coaches as well. EDs can affect athletes at any age though, so this information is not only for teens. We are inspired to dedicate time to this topic due to the number of our clients who are athletes. We also feel especially moved to write about this topic in light of a recent half-day conference we attended called “Athletes Grappling with Eating Disorders”, offered by our local chapter of IAEDP (International Association of Eating Disorder Professionals). I’d like to thank Dr. Mimi Johnson and her presentation as a source of data for our article this week.
This week let’s define terms and talk about prevalence of EDs in the athlete community.
First, some useful terms and what they mean:
1. Disordered Eating
· Inadequate replenishment of energy needs
· Disordered eating can be Unintentional or Intentional
2. Unintentional Disordered Eating
· The inadequate intake is due to the athletes lack of knowledge, understanding, and information
· This athlete doesn’t have other concerns associated with the inadequate intake and once educated, will increase intake
3. Intentional Disordered Eating
· The inadequate intake is due to the athletes conscious attempt to lose weight or body fat
· This form of Disordered Eating is more common that the Unintentional form
· Some characteristics that may describe the Intentional Disordered Eater:
o Restriction of total energy intake and/or fat intake is usually present
o And the following may be present
– Compulsive exercising
– Criteria met for anorexia nervosa (AN) or bulimia nervosa (BN)
Now that we have these terms defined, let’s address the prevalence of EDs and athletes.
Various studies have sought to examine the prevalence of EDs in this community:
1. Rosen et al, 1986 related to female college athletes:
· Of 182 varsity athletes, 32% had disordered eating behaviors (unintentional/intentional not defined)
2. Dummer et al, 1987 related to 955 competitive swimmers ages 9-1:
· 60% were trying to lose weight
· 12% were engaging in purging
· 2.5% were engaging in laxative use
3. Beals and Manore, 2002 related to 425 female college athletes:
· 3.5% had AN = about 14 females
· 2.4% had BN = about 10 females
· 15% scored above the cutoff score for the EAT-26 (a risk evaluation tool for EDs)
o Meaning that 15% of these athletes were at a high risk for having or developing an ED and need further evaluation. (That is about 64 females in the group!)
4. And here is one related to males. Perriollo, 2001 related to high school males in weight sensitive sports (wrestling for example):
· 10-15% of high school males in these sports practiced unhealthy behaviors with 45% of wrestlers being at risk
So there you have it! I think that is enough technical chat for this week. Next week we will talk more on EDs and Athletes.