More than one-third of division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia risk factors were identified by a recent survey. It can be easy to miss the signs of anorexia in many athletes because, depending on the sport, we often expect them to be very thin. Gymnasts, figure skaters, wrestlers, divers, and dancers are a few examples.
Involvement in athletics can offer many benefits, such as increased self-esteem, improved body image, and good physical health. However, it can cause immense physical and mental pressure when competition is taken to the extreme. Division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia are becoming more and more of a concern as fiercer competition in college athletics makes it a more prominent issue.
Risk factors for division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia include:
- Sports that focus on the individual instead of the entire team. This includes sports like gymnastics, figure skating, diving, and running.
- Sports that emphasize appearance and weight, such as gymnastics, wrestling, figure skating, and dance.
- Endurance sports, such as track and field, and swimming.
- Anorexia is most common in women, but about 10 – 15 % of anorexics are men.
- Coaches who focus solely on performance and achievement rather than on the person as a whole.
- Training for a sport since childhood.
- Low self-esteem.
- Pressure from family, friends, team members, and/or coach to lose weight.
- History of traumatic experiences, such as childhood abuse.
Signs Of Anorexia
As mentioned earlier, it can be especially difficult to identify division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia because many athletes are expected to be very thin. Common signs of anorexia, such as a lack of menstrual periods in women, are common among athletes who train hard. The list of risk factors above can help identify athletes at particularly high risk of developing anorexia, but cannot determine for certain which athletes will develop the condition.
Signs of anorexia include:
- Eating very little.
- Severe weight loss.
- Being obsessed with weight and appearance.
- Depression or moodiness.
- Fatigue or lethargy.
- Withdrawal from social situations.
- Exercising obsessively.
You’ll notice that some of these signs of anorexia seem normal for athletes. Of course an athlete is going to exercise a lot. And many athletes have little time for socializing; they spend much of their free time training. Then they are tired from training. It can be hard to recognize the signs of anorexia and to separate them from the normal behaviors of an athlete.
It is time to be concerned when these signs are taken to the extreme, when these behaviors exceed those of other athletes on the team. It is a matter of degree. Coaches and other teammates can be aware of this and take action to help identify potential problems and intervene when needed.
Protecting Division 1 NCAA Athletes With Anorexia With Risk Factors
Coaches who focus on the athlete as a whole person, as opposed to focusing only on performance and achievement, help reduce the risk of athletes developing anorexia. Developing a healthy attitude toward body size is important. Coaches and teammates should not encourage unrealistic weight loss regardless of the sport.
Division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia should not be permitted to participate in athletics. They cannot afford to lose any more weight. They are also at particular risk of injury. For instance, anorexics often develop osteoporosis, and athletes are at high risk of breaking bones. For this reason, it is especially important to identify division 1 NCAA athletes with anorexia and make sure they get appropriate treatment.