messing with mother nature?

I don't come from an athletic family so it is easier for me to dismiss sports than my friends for whom being on the team was a family affair, a passion, and their social life. But are adolescents meant to be active at the levels required for modern intense sports and dance? I worry about this.

Whether or not sports are healthy for most, I can certainly say that we have underestimated the invisible damage to some young athletes. We know now that concussions are a far greater risk than formerly understood.

Of course we have to worry about overexercise and undernourishment triggering or exacerbating eating disorders, but here is another concern: the dangers of delaying puberty through "inadequate energy balance."

body composition and the delay in puberty


  1. Hi Laura

    I did a lot of post-doc research in this field - focusing specifically on relations between exercise, energy balance, endocrine function and bone health. (My PhD focused on over-training). I was a child athlete and over-exercise played a significant role in both the development and the maintenance of my AN.

    Over-exercise and over-training can have very severe health consequences ranging from chronic musculo-skeletal injury to chronic fatigue syndrome/ME. And, you are probably aware of the rat model of activity anorexia...

    Energy deficit is at the heart of the 'female athlete triad', which is a syndrome characterised by disordered eating, menstrual disturbances/delayed menarche and low bone mineral density. It is not just oestrogen deficiency that leads to disturbed bone metabolism but a collection of endocrine adaptations to energy deficit.

    Women with the 'female athlete triad' are not necessarily anorexic, but they do experience some of the physical consequences of AN. It can be quite difficult to differentiate between the two conditions because amenorrhoeic athletes may argue that they are just 'fit'/highly trained and not anorexic because they are not trying to lose weight or don't have body dissatisfaction. However, there are people with AN who also deny deliberate weight loss of body dissatisfaction.

    The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) released a position statement on the 'female athlete triad' a couple of year ago. It's well worth a read.

  2. This topic sits close to my heart. My d, who is in recovery from BN, is a springboard diver with our national institute.
    I am here to point out that for our national team, there is no female medallist that hasn't had an ed since at least Atlanta Olympics. I have spent about eight hours debating whether or not to post that but the sad fact of the matter is that ed is deliberately overlooked in both men and women in this sport.
    I was personally told by the CEO of the sport here that she could smell vomit in the toilets on a regular basis before training sessions but she never saw fit to do anything about it.
    The fact is that you can present them with the IOC's position statement on the Female Athlete Triad or the NCAA's position but at the end of the day. If it doesn't serve the all powerful goal of medals on the board, and hence funding for the sport, then they will sacrifice their athletes in order to perpetuate their sport. And sadly, it is that cynical.
    Shame on them. Shame, shame, shame.

  3. Shame indeed, if only they could feel it.

  4. Hi Laura.


    And then when young adolescents who have not been 'overexercising" and want to enter that world and join their "elite peers" [see themselves as very wrong and something needed to be "fixed" very fast] their bodies and minds go through double hell.



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