Have you ever wished that your period would just stop for a while?
That you wouldn’t have to deal with those annoying cramps and bloating?
I am sure that many of us have felt this way at some time or another.
You may even know someone- your sister, a friend or a classmate- who has had this happen.
You may think to yourself “she is so lucky.” You may want to rethink this though. The female athlete
triad is a serious condition with some potentially serious long term consequences. It can also often be
overlooked, so it is important for us to be aware of the signs and symptoms.
The female athlete triad consists of 3 parts: disordered eating, amenorrhea and bone loss.
Our adolescent years are tough. Many of us are awkward, we are getting pimples, and our bodies are
changing. Yet we are bombarded with images of beautiful women in Teen Magazine and Cosmo with
flawless figures and beautiful skin, and many of us strive to emulate them. With sports, we can also feel
pressure to look a certain way, especially with ballet, ice skating and gymnastics, but even soccer players
and track athletes can feel this pressure too. This pressure can lead us to restrict what we eat or to
exercise excessively to burn calories after eating a meal in order to maintain a certain weight. Not taking
in enough calories and nutrition can affect our energy levels and our performance with sports. These
dysfunctional habits can also potentially lead to more serious eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa
or bulimia nervosa.
Amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menstruation, and in this case it is no menstruation for 3
months or longer. When a female is not receiving adequate nutrition, is exercising intensely, and has a
low body fat percentage; then she can experience a drop in her hormone levels that regulate her
menstrual cycle, which can result in a complete cessation of menses.
The decrease in the hormone Estrogen, associated with amenorrhea, coupled with poor nutrition can
lead to a loss of bone density. This is especially important, as it is during the adolescent years that we
build up our bone mass for life, and not building up enough bone mass can lead to injuries, stress
fractures, and even osteoporosis when we are older.
It is common for girls to feel self-conscious during their teen years. There are a lot of changes going on
and some girls change faster than others. However, we need to be aware of what is normal and what is
not. Pay attention to signs such as: excessive exercise, weight loss, decreased energy levels,
injuries/stress fractures, and irregular or complete cessation of menses. Talk to your physician if you
notice any of these changes in yourself, a loved one or a friend. They can guide in providing the
nutritional, physical and mental assistance to address the issues of the female athlete triad.