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Female Athlete Triad An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Michelle M. Wilson MD, Neha Chowhdary MD, & Sara Baird, MD Greenville Health System.

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Presentation on theme: "Female Athlete Triad An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Michelle M. Wilson MD, Neha Chowhdary MD, & Sara Baird, MD Greenville Health System."— Presentation transcript:

1 Female Athlete Triad An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Michelle M. Wilson MD, Neha Chowhdary MD, & Sara Baird, MD Greenville Health System Steadman Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas

2 Objectives Define female triad Review the components of the triad individually Discuss health consequences Epidemiology Mechanisms Screening and diagnosis Prevention, Treatment and Return to Play

3 FAT Case Anna is a 16 y/o junior gymnast who presents with right leg pain x 2 weeks. She has been working hard in the off-season to get lean in the hopes of earning a college scholarship. She is 53 and weighs 103 pounds, down from the 114 pounds at the beginning of the season. You suspect stress fracture. What is your approach?

4 History Timeline –1972 Title IX legislation provided for greater female participation in athletics –1992 ACSM coined the term Female Athlete Triad –1997 ACSM published the Female Athlete Triad Position Stand –2007 Revision of ACSMs position stand

5 Definition Female Athlete Triad refers to the interrelationships among energy availability, menstrual function, and bone mineral density. Clinical manifestations include eating disorders, functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, and osteoporosis

6 Introduction Low energy availability (with or without eating disorders), amenorrhea, and osteoporosis, alone or in combination, pose significant health risks to physically active girls and women. The potentially irreversible consequences of these clinical conditions emphasize the critical need for prevention, early diagnosis, and treatment. Each clinical condition is now understood to comprise the pathological end of a spectrum of interrelated subclinical conditions between health and disease

7 Shift in approach

8 Energy Availability The amount of dietary energy remaining for other body functions after exercise training. (Dietary energy intake minus exercise energy expenditure) Low energy availability leads to reduced energy used for cellular maintenance, thermoregulation, growth, and reproduction. This may restore energy balance and promote survival but impairs health. May be inadvertent or intentional (eating disorders).

9 Energy Availability and Eating Disorders Clinical mental disorders often accompanied by other psychiatric illnesses. Anorexia nervosa –restrictive eating in which the individual views herself as overweight –afraid of gaining weight even though she is at least 15% below expected weight for age and height. –Amenorrhea is a diagnostic criterion for anorexia nervosa Bulimia nervosa –usually in the normal weight range, –repeat a cycle of overeating or binge-eating and then purging or other compensatory behaviors such as fasting or excessive exercise

10 Menstrual Function Amenorrhea is defined as the absence of menstrual cycles lasting more than three months Amenorrhea beginning after menarche is called secondary amenorrhea. Primary amenorrhea refers to a delay in the age of menarche, the defining age for primary amenorrhea was recently reduced from 16 to 15 years of age. Many retrospective surveys have established that menarche often occurs later in athletes than in nonathletes.

11 Bone Mineral Density Osteoporosis – "a skeletal disorder characterized by compromised bone strength predisposing a person to an increased risk of fracture –Not always caused by accelerated bone mineral loss in adulthood but rather caused by not accumulating optimal BMD during childhood and adolescence. –Bone strength and the risk of fracture depend on the density and internal structure of bone mineral and on the quality of bone protein, which may explain why one person suffers fractures while another with the same BMD does not.

12 Bone Mineral Density BMD in premenopausal women and children are expressed as Z- scores to compare individuals to age and sex-matched controls (based on recommendations from the ISCD). –Z-scores below -2.0 are termed "low bone density below the expected range for age" in premenopausal women and as "low bone density for chronological age in children. –The term osteopenia should not be used and osteoporosis be diagnosed in these populations only when low BMD is present with secondary clinical risk factors that reflect an elevated short-term risk of bone mineral loss and fracture. Secondary risk factors include –chronic malnutrition – eating disorders – hypogonadism – glucocorticoid exposure – previous fractures

13 Bone Mineral Density Athletes in weight-bearing sports usually have 5-15% higher BMD than nonathletes. Z-score < -1.0 in an athlete warrants further investigation, even in the absence of a prior fracture. ACSM defines the term "low BMD" as a history of nutritional deficiencies, hypoestrogenism, stress fractures, and/or other secondary clinical risk factors for fracture together with a Z-score between -1.0 and To reflect an increased risk of fragility and fracture, ACSM defines "osteoporosis" as secondary clinical risk factors for fracture with BMD Z-scores An athlete's BMD reflects her cumulative history of energy availability and menstrual status as well as her genetic endowment and exposure to other nutritional, behavioral, and environmental factors. Therefore, it is important to consider both where her BMD is currently and how it is moving along the BMD spectrum.

14 Health Consequences Sustained low energy availability, with or without disordered eating, can impair health. –Psychological problems associated with eating disorders include low self-esteem Depression anxiety disorders Medical complications involve the cardiovascular, endocrine, reproductive, skeletal, gastrointestinal, renal, and central nervous systems. Amenorrheic women are infertile, due to the absence of ovarian follicular development, ovulation, and luteal function.(may ovulate while recovering-unplanned pregnancy) Consequences of hypoestrogenism seen in amenorrheic athletes include –impaired endothelium-dependent arterial vasodilation which reduces the perfusion of working muscle –impaired skeletal muscle oxidative metabolism –elevated low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels –vaginal dryness

15 Health Consequences BMD declines as the number of missed menstrual cycles accumulates and the loss of BMD may not be fully reversible. Stress fractures occur more commonly in physically active women with menstrual irregularities and/or low BMD with a relative risk for stress fracture two to four times greater in amenorrheic than eumenorrheic athletes. Fractures also occur in the setting of nutritional deficits and low BMD. Any premenopausal fracture unrelated to trauma is a strong predictor for postmenopausal fractures

16 Prevalence Disordered eating –Only two large, well-controlled studies have diagnosed clinical eating disorders according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to obtain unbiased and reliable estimates of the prevalence of eating disorders in elite female athletes in different types of sports. One found eating disorders in 31% of elite female athletes in "thin-build" sports compared to 5.5% of the control population. The other found that 25% of female elite athletes in endurance sports, aesthetic sports, and weight-class sports had clinical eating disorders compared to 9% of the general population. A small study of collegiate gymnasts (N = 42) found a prevalence of disordered eating behaviors as high as 62%.

17 Prevalence Secondary amenorrhea –Varies widely with sport, age, training volume, and body weight –Reported as high as 69% in dancers and 65% in long- distance runners(2-5% in the general population). –Distance runners, prevalence of amenorrhea increased from 3% to 60% as training mileage increased from 113 km·wk-1 while their body weights decreased from >60 to <50 kg. –Prevalence of secondary amenorrhea is higher (67%) in female runners less than 15 years of gynecological age compared to older women (9%).

18 Prevalence Primary amenorrhea –less than 1% in the general population –more than 22% in cheerleading, diving and gymnastics –Subclinical menstrual disorders typify both highly trained and recreational eumenorrheic athletes: luteal deficiency or anovulation was found in 78% of eumenorrheic recreational runners in at least one menstrual cycle out of three

19 Prevalence Low BMD –Systematic review of studies using the WHO T- scores for diagnosis –Osteopenia 22%-50% and osteoporosis 0%-13% in female athletes –Normal population 12% and 2.3%

20 Prevalence The Triad –Only three studies of female athletes have investigated the simultaneous occurrence of the triad. –Only one diagnosed eating disorders. –The prevalence of the entire Triad in elite athletes from 66 diverse sports (4.3%; 8/186) was similar to controls (3.4%) –The other two studies referenced BMD Z-scores to instrument norms. One found the entire Triad in 2.7% of collegiate athletes from seven diverse sports. The other found the entire Triad in 1.2% of high school athletes. –None estimated energy availability, diagnosed subclinical menstrual disorders or the cause of amenorrhea, or assessed changes in BMD.

21 Risk Factors Athletes at greatest risk for low energy availability are those who –restrict dietary energy intake –exercise for prolonged periods –Vegetarians –limit the types of food they will eat Other factors include –Environmental and social factors –psychological predisposition –low self-esteem –family dysfunction –abuse –biological factors –genetics –Risk factors for stress fracture include low BMD, menstrual disturbances, late menarche, dietary insufficiency, genetic predisposition, biomechanical abnormalities, training errors, and bone geometry (e.g., narrower tibia width, shorter tibia length)

22 Mechanisms Low energy availability –Inadvertent vs. intentional –Dieting may not lead to an eating disorder (be mindful of the situation where the athlete is told to lose weight) –Nutritional counseling is essential for prevention of inadvertent low energy availability.

23 Mechanisms Menstrual disorders –Animal experiments, decreasing dietary intake by >30% has consistently caused infertility and skeletal demineralization. –Menstrual disorders as a result of the triad result from the pituitary gland. –LH pulsatility is disrupted within 5 days when e.a. is reduced by >33%(<30kcal/kg) –LH pulsatility reflects the pulsatile secretion of GnRH from the hypothalamus.

24 Mechanisms Menstrual disorders (cont) –Low e.a. alters levels of metabolic hormones (GH, IGF-1, T3, insulin, cortisol, and leptin) and substrates(glucose, fatty acids, and ketones). –These are thought to disrupt signaling pathways disrupting GnRH pulsatility.

25 Mechanisms Menstrual disorders –Long-term prospective experiments, luteal deficiency and anovulation have been induced in young women by increasing exercise energy expenditure alone. –In female monkeys, amenorrhea has been induced by increasing exercise energy expenditure without reducing dietary energy intake. Then their ovulation was restored by increasing energy intake without moderating the exercise regimen. This type of amenorrhea is called functional hypothalamic amenorrhea

26 Mechanisms Low BMD –Estrogen deficiency likely account for a small part of the abnormal bone remodeling in athletes with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea (unlike postmenopausal women). –Malnutrition reduces the rate of bone formation and is often a complicating factor. –In a randomized clinical trial, the rate of bone resorption increased and the rate of bone formation declined within 5 d after energy availability was reduced below 30 kcal·kg in exercising women. Resorption increased when energy availability was restricted enough to suppress estradiol, and bone formation was suppressed at higher energy availabilities in dose-response relationships resembling those of insulin, T3 and IGF-I (hormones that regulate bone formation). Low energy availability may also suppress bone formation via effects on other hormones, including cortisol and leptin

27 Diagnosis

28 Recognition of high-risk athletes Screening Methods Physiologic Measurements

29 Recognition: Whos at risk? Subjective performance athletes: –Dance, Gymnastics, Diving, Figure skating Endurance Athletes: –Distance runners, Cyclists, Cross-Country Skiing Body contour-revealing sports: –Volleyball, Swimming, Diving, Cheerleading Weight category sports: –Horse Racing, Wrestling, Rowing

30 Screening Methods Medical History Questionnaire: –Food frequency or dietary recall –Detailed menstrual history questionnaire (age of menarche, frequency & duration of menses, oral contraceptive use) –Use subtle questions –Degree of perceived stress during missed workout –Intensity of exercise –Level of competition –External stressors: family, coping skills, risky behaviors


32 YESNOOTHER Have you had a menstrual period? How old were you when you had your first menstrual period? When was your last period? How many days does your period last? Have you ever missed 3 or more consecutive periods?

33 YESNOOTHER Does your menstrual cycle change with a change in the intensity, freq, or duration of training? Do you ever have trouble with heavy bleeding? Do you ever experience cramps during your period? Are you on OCP or hormones? Have you ever been treated for anemia? Do you have family hx of osteoporosis?

34 Screening Instruments Survey of Eating Disorders among Athletes (SEDA) Athletic Milieu Direct Questionnaire (AMDQ) Female Athletic Screening TOOL (FAST) College Health Related Information Survey (CHRIS) The Physiologic Screening Test (PST) The Health, Weight, Dieting, and Menstrual History Questionnaires

35 Physiologic Measurements: Assessing Body Composition Monitor only under the following conditions: –Qualified and trained individual who is proficient in result interpretation –Serial measurements performed by the same individual –Registered dietician available if nutritional support is needed

36 Physiologic Measurements: Assessing Body Composition De-emphasize the importance of an ideal body weight or body fat composition. Better to use a range among athletes in a given sport. Emphasize changes estimates not absolute fat mass or lean muscle mass in athletes during the season. Avoid public discussion of the results, including coaches. Establish at least 2-3 month intervals between serial measurements.

37 Physiologic Measurements Assessing Body Composition Calculating the Body Mass Index Laboratory Evaluation Bone Densitometry

38 Physiologic Measurements: BMI BMI should be used as a screening tool to determine appropriateness of athletes body weight for height, which varies with age & sex. According to the World Health Organization, if 18+ years, BMI <18.5 kg/m2 = underweight. If years old, the 5 th percentile of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention growth charts is underweight. Pre-adolescent (<12 yrs) focus on height/weight and maturity.

39 Physiologic Measurements Laboratory Data: –CBC –Electrolytes –Pregnancy test if amenorrhea present –FSH, LH, Prolactin –Thyroid function tests Electrocardiogram (EKG): consider for athletes with disordered eating behavior if history of syncope, palpitations, or resting heart rate <50 bpm.

40 Physiologic Measurements: Bone Densitometry T-Score: a comparison of the patients BMD with the average peak adult BMD. Z-score: a comparison with age-matched controls. In premenopausal women, a Z-score <-2.0 is low bone density below the expected range for age. A Z-score <-1.0 in an athlete requires further evaluation since athletes tend to have higher BMD (by 5-15%) than age-matched controls.

41 Physiologic Measurements: Bone Densitometry


43 Case Review After a thorough history to include medical and menstrual health questionaire, you determine that Anna is consuming approximately 900 calories/day and has not has not menstruated in over 6 months. She is notably thin on exam and has mild facial lanugo. Her parents recently divorced and she is taking 4 AP classes this semester. Lab work is negative for pregnancy but demonstrate an iron defiency anemia and low vitamin D levels. X-ray is negative but MRI reveals a grade 2 medial tibia stress reaction. DXA reveals a Z-score of Whats your approach to treatment and prevention? Return to sport?

44 Treatment and Prevention

45 Prevention The keys to prevention are increased awareness and sensitivity to the condition.

46 Treatment Goal Reach a healthy weight and maintain, treating both the physical manifestations of the female triad as well as the underlying psychological condition that contributes to this unhealthy behavior

47 Approach to treatment Multidisciplinary Team –Physician –Registered dietitian –Mental health provider for those with an eating disorder –Athletic trainer –Other valuable members include athletes coach, exercise physiologist, parents, and family members.

48 Outpatient vs. Inpatient Treatment Criteria for inpatient treatment includes the following: –Weight <85% of healthy body weight –Syncopal episodes or arrhythmia –Abnormal vital signs, electrolyte imbalances or dehydration –Severe body image disturbances or suicidal intent –Failure to respond to outpatient program x 3 months –Concomitant use of alcohol/drugs

49 Outpatient Treatment Approach Set a goal weight Create a patient contract to make them accountable Counseling/education Medications Close follow up

50 Non-pharmacological Therapy Dietary –Increased caloric intake with return of normal menses (not induced by birth control pills) leads to decreased bone resorption and increased BMD in hypothalamic amenorrhea. –Increase energy availability by increasing energy intake, reducing energy expenditure, or a combination. –Counsel patient on the need for an energy availability of 30 kcal/kg lean body mass/day at minimum. –Nutrition consult to address necessary foods such as dairy, iron- rich, and proteins. Calcium 1500 mg/day Vitamin D IU/day Vitamin K IU/day Protein 1g/kg of body weight/day

51 Non-pharmacological therapy Psychologist consult to address both mental and physical stress and discuss disordered thoughts about eating Family counseling may be beneficial to address parental pressures on the adolescent that may have triggered the disordered eating behavior.

52 Pharmacological therapy Antidepressants-used for anorexia/bulimia with associated depression/anxiety AAP recommends OCP use for treatment of amenorrhea if athlete is over 16 years old or if she is 3 years post-menarche. Evidence of the effectiveness HRT and OCP usage in order to increase BMD in women with functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is mixed. No evidence to support use of HRT/OCP in females with anorexia induced amenorrhea. Pharmacological restoration of regular menstrual cycles with OCP will not normalize the metabolic factors that impair bone formation, health, and performance. Bisphosphonates are not recommended in young women. Emerging data on folic acid supplementation and reversal of endothelial dysfunction in this population.

53 Return to Play Consider the athlete injured, even in the absence of stress fracture or other musculoskeletal injury No specific guidelines for return to sports but athletes being treated for an eating disorder should meet minimal criteria to continue training and competition –Cannot be more than 15% underweight –Must be showing improvement and compliance with treatment plan RTP must be agreed upon by team and can be rescinded at any time

54 Case Review In addition to treatment for stress fracture, Anna underwent counseling with both a dietician and psychologist. She was followed closely by her coach as well as her team trainer and physician. She increased her caloric intake by 100 kcal/day each week until she was consuming an average of 1600 kcal/day. She exercised relative rest for 2 months and began taking a calcium and vitamin D supplement daily. She gained 7 pounds and was allowed to return to practice gradually. 3 months later she weighed in at her original weight of 114 pounds and had resumed normal menstrual cycles without the use of OCP. She was allowed to return to competition and went on to perform at the collegiate level.

55 Conclusion Low energy availability with or without eating disorders, hypothalamic amenorrhea, and low BMD alone or in combination pose significant health risks to physically active girls and women. Prevention, recognition, and treatment of these clinical conditions should be a priority in those who work with female athletes. Increased energy availability and restoration of gonadal function are the cornerstones of treatment.

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58 Questions?

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