Exercise is part of a balanced, healthy lifestyle and sports can be an excellent form of exercise. Kids and teens who play sports are healthier; get better grades; and are less likely to experience depression, use alcohol and drugs. But some young girls who play sports or exercise intensely are at risk for developing a health problem called female athlete triad. Female athlete triad is characterized by having one or more of a combination of three conditions:
What are the signs and symptoms?
Other signs and symptoms include common signs of eating disorders, such as:
Diagnosis and treatment of female athlete triad
Doctors can perform a physical examination to help diagnose female athlete triad. They will ask questions about periods, nutrition, medications and exercise habits. Your doctor might request or suggest:
Once it has been diagnosed, female athlete triad can be treated with help from coaches and trainers, parents, physical therapists, pediatricians, adolescent or sports medicine specialists, nutritionists and dietitians and mental health specialists.
What if I think I have it or a friend has it?
It might be tempting to shrug off several months of missed periods, but getting help right away is important. Female athlete triad may lead to reduced physical performance, stress fractures, other injuries, long-term bone weakness, permanent effects on the reproductive system and heart problems.
You might worry about seeming nosy when you ask questions about a friend’s health, but you’re not: your concern is a sign that you’re a caring friend. If a friend, sister or teammate has signs and symptoms of female athlete triad, discuss your concerns with her and encourage her to seek treatment. If she refuses, you may need to mention your concern to a parent, coach, teacher or school nurse.
Tips for female athletes
It’s your body and your life.
Pressure from teammates, parents, or coaches can turn a fun activity into a nightmare. You — not your coach or teammates — will have to live with any damage you do to your body now.
First published on the HCA Midwest Health website here.