Playing a sport during the teen years is an excellent plan to maintain healthy habits throughout life. A sports schedule often dictates ample amounts of exercise on a balanced diet along with a steady grade point average. All of which are wonderful benefits. The teenage girl athlete will most likely be a happy healthy individual with a bright future. However, the push to succeed can lead to detrimental decisions that unbalance a teen’s life drastically. A girl who feels the push to succeed over stepping healthy boundaries could have Female Athlete Triad. A female athlete, regardless of age, is susceptible to a combination of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis. Combining all three is the Female Athlete Triad.
Eating in a disorderly manner can be a simple avoidance of “bad” foods in an attempt to loose weight. While the other extreme is an actual eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. Regardless of the severity, fiddling with a girl’s diet is a slippery slope. A coach or teammate may say that losing weight could boost performance or the girl may need a boost in self-esteem. Whatever the cause, only girls who have unhealthy eating habits should ‘diet’. Excessive dieting leads to vitamin or hormone deficiency, both of which lead to a weakened immune system. Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial to an athlete’s success, especially for a growing teenage girl.
The amount of exercise it takes to maintain a sporty body must be in balance with caloric intake. Without the proper amount of calories to burn, the body begins to burn fat and muscle. If this continues a girl’s hormones will not regulate. Unregulated hormones lead to irregular or no periods. Within the first two years of a girl’s menstrual cycle, it is normal for skipping and irregularity. However, a girl with Female Athlete Triad will no longer get her period. Intense sports training may keep a girl’s first period from ever happening. A girl who never gets her period should talk with an adult or doctor. Likewise, a girl who has her period and then suddenly stops should also talk with a health care professional.
Checking with a health care professional about missing periods is important before jumping to blame the Triad. Something else could be happening, like pregnancy or another medical condition. Sexually active girls should be open with their doctors about missing periods as well as about their sex lives.
Poor nutrition and inadequate estrogen levels can also slow development due to vitamin deficiency. Low calcium levels lead to osteoporosis, which completes the Triad. This condition weakens the bones of a growing girl, decreasing density and making her more prone to stress fractures. Osteoporosis can bench an athlete for life, especially when developed as a teen. The teen years are when bone is at its peak mass. This condition will have long terms effects for a teenage girl.
The Female Athlete Triad is dangerous and subtle. All of the symptoms must be watched closely but can hide behind positive signs such as the appearance of physical fitness and improved performance. However, these signs will disintegrate as conditions worsen and a teenage girl weakens. A doctor and possibly a therapist will need to be present along with parental guidance to rectify Female Athlete Triad in a teenage girl.