On the radio today: Eating disorders among athletes

Topic: Eating disorders among athletes
Guest: Joel Buffum, Memorial Sports Medicine Advantage
Chelsea Buffum, Mental health counselor
Date: Dec. 30, 2014

Organized sports offer participants many benefits, such as improved self esteem and body image and knowledge of the importance of daily physical activity. Athletic competition also can be a contributing factor to psychological stress, particularly for athletes in sports where weight and image are key roles, such as wrestling.

Historically, wrestling has had a number of issues with eating disorders, because the sport is so centered on athletes wrestling in a specific weight class.
Wrestlers have been known to drop weight quickly using a combination of food restriction and ridding themselves of excess fluid, relying on steam rooms, saunas, laxatives and diuretics. There are health risks associated with wrestling – and eating disorders is high on that list.
What are current techniques being employed to prevent eating disorders with wrestlers?
Medical trainers should conduct a preseason weight assessment, testing for hydration and weight to determine body fat and develop a progression plan.
• The plan allows for a wrestler to slowly progress weight down if he/she wants to wrestle at a lower weight class at state tournaments.

Do wrestlers try to find ways around this technique?
Yes. They often try to cut their weight lower and lower, and because wrestling is a weight dominant sport, it causes issues like eating disorders.
• A few examples of things parents should monitor: energy drinks, diuretics, magnesium citrate, which is an intense laxative, spitting and the use of sweat suits.

What kind of long-term health effects are there from eating disorders in wrestlers?
Since most colleges don’t run wrestling programs anymore, the likelihood is that these student-athletes end up with four years of athletic participation and a lifelong health issue with long-term effects.

What should parents do to prevent these problems?
Get a dietician or nutritionist involved early on in the season, and work with an athletic trainer for a progressive plan to lose weight. Communicate with your student-athletes about this issue, and if you suspect there’s a problem, make sure they’re seeing a medical provider and getting nutrition counseling. This is not something that’s fixed overnight.

As always, you also want to make sure your student-athletes are getting plenty of rest, staying hydrated and eating a well-rounded diet.

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