In 2020, there is a high awareness of healthy eating and its positive impacts on health. More and more people are generally trying to eat better and exercise in order to improve their quality of life. Despite that, eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia are still quite prevalent in the United States. According to the Eating Disorder Association, 10 to 15 percent of Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder. There is plenty of debate about the core causes of eating disorders, whether it’s psychological issues like depression or social impacts from media and advertisements. Often overlooked, though, are the specific factors that impact young athletes. Sometimes, there are no obvious signs that a teen athlete is struggling with an eating disorder. Any signs displayed are often hidden by a teen’s presentation as supremely healthy. Knowing which signs to look for, though, can help parents guide their children to building positive health habits. Why young athletes are susceptible to eating disorders Athletics are a great way to build self-esteem, promote physical conditioning, and demonstrate the value of teamwork, but not all athletic stressors are positive. The pressure to win and an emphasis on body weight and shape can create a toxic combination. One study found that over one-third of NCAA Division I female athletes reported attitudes and symptoms that placed them at risk for anorexia nervosa. Male athletes aren’t immune, though, as many sports lend to a higher prevalence of eating disorders. The stringent weight and size requirements in sports such as wrestling, bodybuilding and running push some men to develop unhealthy habits that lead to eating disorders. Know the signs of eating disorders Just because your teen athlete seems to be in good shape and focused on health, it’s important to keep an eye on them daily to make sure they are not developing unhealthy habits.
- Exercising and training too hard: With such a focus on regimented eating habits to create peak physical performance, athletes can become vulnerable to overtraining. Monitor your child’s training habits, paying focus on whether or not they are eating enough to fuel that training.
- Underweight or notable weight loss: As a culture, we are taught that anybody who is not “overweight” and “obese” is considered “healthy.” Often times, it’s true. But being “underweight” is of significant concern, especially for young athletes and doubly so for female athletes. Enter your child’s height and weight into a body mass index (BMI) calculator online. Any BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight.
- Stress fractures and injuries due to overuse: A trend among athletes with eating disorders is a focus on excessive exercise. Another trend among athletes is to “play through pain.” It’s a toxic combination that together can be a very telling sign of an eating disorder. If your child gets diagnosed with a stress fracture, it could be a first sign that you should evaluate whether your child is showing other signs of an eating disorder.
Tips for keeping your student athlete injury free. Your student athlete's sports, are in full force and coaches are working to keep them safe. Whether you have a student-athlete on the basketball or the volleyball court or even cheerleading, safety during high school sports is an important topic. Here are some common injuries they treat, and ways to address similar injuries in your athlete should something happen away from school: Hydration-related injuries Dehydration is common health threats for athletes, especially if activities take place outside. Making sure your athlete stays properly hydrated throughout the entire day leading up to, during and after the practice or event. Dislocated joints Athletic trainers see dislocated fingers, shoulders, kneecaps and shoulder separations, among others. In these situations this injury is often splint the body part to stabilize it while calling the athlete’s parent or guardian to take them to the hospital for further X-rays and treatment. You probably won’t have a splint at home should your child injure a bone or joint, but try to have your child keep the injured location as immobile as possible until you can get them to the hospital. Concussions Concussions tend to be seen more in contact sports such as football, hockey and wrestling, but can also be seen in sports such as cheerleading, basketball and soccer. The evaluation process for concussions should be easy for certified athletic trainers, but sometimes it becomes difficult when injured athletes don’t want to admit their symptoms because they want to continue playing. If coaches suspect an individual is displaying concussion-like symptoms, you’ll want to make sure her or she receives a physician evaluation. Sprains, tears and contusions The most common injury in student-athletes is ankle sprains. Ligament sprains, muscle strains and bone contusions, or bruising of bones, are also seen in almost every sport. Parents should try to immobilize the injury as quickly as possible and can also put an ice pack on the injury to reduce swelling, pain and bruising. If there is an obvious bone deformity, get them to a hospital or physician that can evaluate the situation, and then make sure your athlete rests to let the injury properly heal. On or off the court, keep your student athlete healthy by knowing the signs and symptoms of each and if you have questions, call your doctor.