Get­ting Back in the Game...of Life

Wellness Update - - Meet Our Doctors -

Eat­ing dis­or­ders are an epi­demic in the United States to­day. One pop­u­la­tion in­creas­ingly at risk for de­vel­op­ing anorexia or bulimia is ath­letes. Ath­letes are far more prone to eat­ing dis­or­ders than nonath­letes, es­pe­cially for fe­males. The risk in­creases sig­nif­i­cantly for those in­volved in sports that ne­ces­si­tate a cer­tain body type or weight, when success tends to be more ap­pear­ance-based than per­for­mance-based, and when the ath­lete is com­pet­ing at an elite level. This in­cludes sports such as ice skat­ing, gymnastics, wrestling, div­ing, row­ing, dis­tance run­ning, bal­let, and other forms of dance. Those tak­ing part in judged sports are par­tic­u­larly at risk. Re­search in­di­cates that fe­male ath­letes in judged sports have a 13 per­cent preva­lence of eat­ing dis­or­ders, com­pared to just 3 per­cent in the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Fac­tors that con­trib­ute to risk for de­vel­op­ing an eat­ing dis­or­der in­clude: en­durance sports, sports with weight cat­e­gories, in­di­vid­ual sports and “lean” sports. Sports with re­veal­ing cloth­ing are rapidly mov­ing to the top of this list, as sports at­tire con­tin­ues to shrink. With ev­ery pass­ing year, play­ers on the ten­nis cir­cuit or pro­fes­sional vol­ley­ball teams are re­veal­ing far more skin than ever be­fore. Ath­letes strug­gling with eat­ing dis­or­ders are not un­like non-ath­letes deal­ing with sim­i­lar is­sues. Highly com­pet­i­tive, they rarely ad­mit to hav­ing a prob­lem, for fear of los­ing play­ing time or dis­pleas­ing coaches, team­mates or fam­ily mem­bers. They may in­cur more in­juries and have de­clin­ing health, as they re­strict food in­take and en­gage in rig­or­ous ex­er­cise sched­ules. Of­ten times, th­ese dan­ger­ous be­hav­iors go un­rec­og­nized by coaches, par­ents and team­mates. In fact, th­ese very be­hav­iors are fre­quently en­cour­aged by coaches and/ or par­ents who be­lieve that weight loss and ex­treme train­ing will give their ath­lete a com­pet­i­tive edge. Trag­i­cally, the cost may be the young per­son’s life, since anorexia and bulimia are po­ten­tially fa­tal ill­nesses. What is im­por­tant for par­ents, train­ers and coaches to re­mem­ber is that an ath­lete who de­vel­ops an eat­ing dis­or­der doesn’t have to per­ma­nently re­lin­quish his or her involvement in sport. Ef­fec­tive treat­ment is avail­able

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