Female Athlete Triad is a disorder found in young women who push themselves too hard in athletics and don't get proper nutrition. Triad disorder can begin in early teen years and go right through college.
Young women can suffer disordered eating, loss of menstruation, and early onset osteoporosis.
Without proper intervention it can lead to long term health issues.
Elizabeth McMurray is the clinical director of A Center for Eating Disorders in Birmingham.
McMurray says the center sees at least six young women a month who suffer from Female Athlete Triad.
"We're seeing an increase in that here in our center. I'm seeing it in younger and younger girls," says McMurray. "These girls sort of get trapped in trying to compete." Dr. Bonnie Spear is a nutrition and eating disorder specialists with children's of Alabama. She explains how Triad works. "You start wanting to lose weight, you lose weight. You eat unhealthy. Your estrogen drops, when your estrogen drops, it limits the amount of calcium into the bone," says Spear. "Therefore the bone starts to lose calcium. And you have to have enough estrogen to start your periods. So it's kind of all related."The most common sports where Triad shows itself, are gymnastics and track & field.Some other signs and symptoms include. "Loss of menstrual periods is number one, stress fractures that are non-injury stress fractures that just happen. Significant weight loss," Spear says.Now, organizations like A Center for Eating Disorders want to work with high schools to promote education and understanding of this disease.
Lisa Bridgman, is a P.E. instructor and basketball coach at Hoover High School. "If I see a kid who, she's losing a lot of weight, or she can't maintain her scores, or she's having trouble with being tired all the time. I might talk to her or talk to a counselor," Bridgman explains.Bridgman says, fellow coaches and administrators are aware this disease is out there.
She says, it starts with educating students about the dangers."Our athletic training staff is very supportive in what the kids need to eat before, during their training and after competition to refuel their bodies," Bridgman says. "Education is key,we do talk to our student athletes about nutrition, it goes across the curriculum."