How To Detect Signs Of The Female Athlete Triad In Your Daughter

Health & Medical Blog

The female athlete triad is a serious condition that affects many teenage girls. There are three primary conditions associated with the triad that you, as a parent, should be on the look out for.

Disordered eating

Many athletes feel pressure to reach and maintain a low weight. For example, for runners, dropping a few pounds can lead to improved performance-- if the athlete has a few pounds they can afford to lose. A problem arises once a low (but still healthy) weight is reached, and the runner continues to try and shed more weight.

Sometimes, athletes can fall into a pattern of disordered eating. A girl suffering from the female athlete triad may obsess over every calorie consumed, or refuse to eat anything other than fruits and veggies. They may exercise more as penance for any extra calories taken in. This disordered eating leads to an unhealthy weight that will ultimately hinder performance and cause the other symptoms of the female athlete triad.

Missed periods

Amenorrhea is characterized by the cessation of menstruation. Girls who push themselves hard in training and don't consume the nutrients they need may start to miss periods. Contrary to popular belief, amenorrhea is not a natural by-product of athletic training. In fact, it can lead to lifelong problems for a teenage girl.

When the body doesn't menstruate, it produces less estrogen and causes hormonal imbalances. Girls are at an increased risk of osteoporosis-- discussed below-- and may also have fertility problems as an adult. If your daughter is missing periods, or is over the age of 16 but has never menstruated, she may be suffering from amenorrhea.

Low bone density

Low bone density may seem difficult to gauge, unless you're a doctor. The most obvious visible sign a parent will notice is that their daughter is susceptible to stress fractures, where tiny, hairline cracks develop in the bone. While stress fractures can happen to otherwise healthy athletes, a low bone density does increase the risk.

Amenorrhea is one cause for low bone density, but disordered eating also plays a role.. Calcium is vital for bone health, and it's something teenage girls should be consuming a great deal of-- about 1,300 milligrams a day from the ages of 9 to 18, versus 1,000 milligrams for adults 19 to 50. This increased need for calcium is because bones reach their peak thickness during the teenage years. A teen with low bone density could suffer from osteoporosis as an adult.

Staying alert for signs of the female athlete triad in your daughter-- and stepping in if you notice unhealthy behaviors-- can minimize the risk of more serious complications down the line. Contact a local family physician for more information.


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