The Female Athlete Triad


High school and college athletics can feel like the center of the universe, with every win or personal record emphasizing the importance of those sports in your life. Many people will do whatever it takes to be a better competitor or teammate, including altering their diet if they believe it necessary. Unfortunately, nutrition is rarely taught to high schoolers and social media can have a negative influence on diet, exercise and body image. Women especially are vulnerable to social stigmas about weight.

Sports such as running, dancing or cheerleading promote lean body habitus and can perpetuate insecurities thus resulting in dieting and weight loss. One study found that in elite athletes in weight class sports, up to 70% of those athletes are dieting or have unhealthy eating patterns. In the running community one train of thought is the less you weigh the faster you run. However, low body fat percentages can cause amenorrhea, a stopping of the menstrual cycle, and low energy. The cessation of a woman’s menstrual cycle changes her hormones and actually results in lower bone density. This makes a woman’s bones more likely to break.

It is extremely important to counsel all athletes about proper nutrition, exercise habits and body positivity. Let’s break the cycle.

Check out this great article on THE FEMALE ATHLETE TRIAD by Taraneh Gharib Nazem,BA and Kathryn E Ackerman, MD, PHD.   The female athlete triad, or FAT, involves menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability, with or without eating disorders and decreased bone mineral density (BMD) and/or osteoporosis. 
Guest blogger:  Kelsey Jaynes
Alpert Medical School | M.D. Candidate, 2022
Cornell University | B.S. Biological Sciences, 2018