Prevalence of Disordered Eating Amongst Female Undergraduate Athletes and Non-athletes Studying at the University of Wales Institute Cardiff and Possible Relationship with the Female Athlete Triad
University of Wales
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Objective: The purpose of this study was to compare the prevalence of disordered eating (DE), menstrual dysfunction and the occurrence of bone injuries in two groups of undergraduate sports students. An athletic group (n = 31) and a group of non-athletic students representing a control sample (n = 55). The athletes represented the university in three different sports; gymnastics, trampolining and Water Polo. Method: Group demographics, (i.e., age, height, weight, desired weight, BMI) menstrual dysfunction and bone health were assessed by subjects self reporting data via questionnaire. Disordered eating was assessed using a modified pre-established Eating Disorder Inventory (Garner and Olmsted, 1984) where scores were measured on a 7 point likert scale. Classification of DE was established using a pre-established cut-off score of 20. Results: A total of 52% of university athletes and 31% of the non-athletes were classified as displaying signs of DE (P = 0.32). Primary amenorrhea was reported by 10% of athletes, with none of the non-athletic controls reporting any incidence (P = 0.02). Sixteen percent of non-athletes and thirteen percent of athletes claimed to have an incidence of secondary amenorrhea (P = 0.67). Incidences of bone injuries were reported by 19% of athletes and 2% of non-athletes (P = 0.03). Only two athletes met the criteria for being ‘at risk’ of all three disorders of the triad. Discussion: With the exception of primary amenorrhea (which was significantly more prevalent among athletes than non-athletes) and bone injuries (also more prevalent amongst the athletic sample), there were no significant differences between groups in the prevalence of the other disorders (DE and secondary amenorrhea). Conclusion: The data indicates that there was little difference between the athletes and non-athlete controls with regards to DE and ED’s (des pite (sic) the relatively high prevalence of DE in the whole sample), whereas clear medical signs like a history of menstrual dysfunction and poor bone health is more common in the athletic population.
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