New guidelines will help doctors treat female athlete triad

July 16, 2014


New guidelines will help doctors address Female Athlete Triad.

The families of young women who participate in competitive sports are probably aware of the Female Athlete Triad. This condition is a consequence of extreme physical activity combined with inadequate intake of calories. As a result, these patients have low energy availability - which may or may not be linked to disordered eating - menstruate irregularly and develop weaker bones. If not addressed adequately, these individual problems may each progress to more serious complications, such as an eating disorder, amenorrhea and osteoporosis.

The keys in addressing Female Athlete Triad are prevention and vigilance in recognizing the signs. Parents can easily help their daughters by taking them to consult with a knowledgeable sports physician, according to the Female Athlete Triad Coalition, a disease awareness group. Before the sports season begins, these medical professionals can provide valuable services, such as a nutritional assessment or blood tests to measure hormone levels, which can reveal whether an individual is already showing signs of the syndrome.

Now, sports physicians can treat the condition more effectively than ever, thanks to a new set of clinical guidelines that were presented at the 23rd Annual Meeting of the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. These guidelines include algorithms to inform decisions on whether a girl is clear to participate in sports, and whether a patient is ready to return to play.

"The hope is that the implementation of these guidelines improves bone health and reduces the risk of stress fractures, as well as the progression of disordered eating into a more serious eating disorder," Aurelia Nattiv, M.D., said in a statement.

Nattiv also noted that those who need psychological support can be referred to specialists for further health care.

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