Female Athlete Triad is a medical condition that can affect girls and young women. It involves the following three components: energy availability, menstrual function and bone health. Clinical signs and symptoms may not all occur at the same time, so further evaluation is needed with the presence of any of these problems. Jane Chung, M.D. advises that education and early intervention are keys for young ladies with female athlete triad.
Each athlete has a unique nutritional need to keep his or her body prepared for training and competition and normal growth. Sometimes, in an effort to achieve a specific weight or appearance, an athlete may restrict calories or make other choices to limit gaining weight. Poor eating habits can lead to changes in several normal body processes. This can actually worsen performance, when an athlete is really trying to improve performance.
Changes in Menstrual Cycle
Young girls who are very lean, who train a lot, or who do not have a well-balanced diet may start their menstrual cycle later than others. Some may start in a normal timeframe, however, changes to diet and exercises habits may cause the cycle to be less frequent or stop during times of heavy training.
Osteoporosis or Weak Bones
Changes in hormone production that causes changes in the menstrual cycle leads to poor bone strength. A diet without proper amounts of calcium also causes bones to become weak. Therefore, athletes with disordered eating are at high risk of injuries to bones. These often show up as stress fractures, these are small breaks in the bone that are difficult to detect, but cause pain and require long rest breaks from activity.