IADMS 2001 - Abandoning Routine Body Composition Assessment: A Strategy to Reduce Disordered Eating Among Female Dancers and Athletes

Abandoning Routine Body Composition Assessment: A Strategy to Reduce Disordered Eating Among Female Dancers and Athletes(A working paper from the Women’s Issues in Sport Medicine Committee of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine)

James D. Carson, Julia Alleyne, Eileen Bridges, Trevor Hall, Vicki J. Harber, Janice Harvey, Roger M. Hobden, Maureen Kennedy, Connie Lebrun, Bob MacKenzie, Margo Mountjoy, Carol D. Rodgers, Janet Yoneda;
Canada

The Female Athlete Triad of disordered eating, amenorrhea and osteoporosis is a syndrome of related medical disorders, which can affect female dancers and athletes. There are no studies that confirm that either mandatory weigh-ins or body composition assessments have led either directly or indirectly to the Female Athlete Triad. However, there is a strong suspicion that for dancers and certain groups of female athletes, performing a mandatory weigh-in, performing a body composition assessment, or conveying her body composition result can be triggering factors.
It is the position of the Women’s Issues in Sport Medicine Committee (WIISM) of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine (CASM) that mandatory weigh-ins and body composition assessments be abandoned for dancers and female athletes. This can be a valuable strategy toward reduction of the incidence of the Female Athlete Triad, when supplemented with prevention programs aimed at disordered eating and comprehensive nutritional counseling to female dancers and athletes at risk. This position statement is based on a comprehensive review and interpretation of scientific literature concerning body composition assessment, disordered eating and the Female Athlete Triad. Because this is a work-in-progress this draft position statement has not yet been submitted to nor endorsed by the board of the Canadian Academy of Sport Medicine (CASM).
We need a more cautious use of body composition assessment initially, as there is a need to acknowledge the difficulty of any transition. Abandoning mandatory weigh-ins and body composition assessment will not rid us of the Female Athlete Triad nor undue “competitive” concern over body weight. However, it should not be the scales and calipers that guide us – at least not until new evidence tells us that these measures do improve performance. We recommend a national conference of exercise scientists, dance teachers, coaches, physicians and dietitians to be convened to address the following points:
o Abandoning mandatory weigh-ins and body composition assessment for dancers and female athletes must be reevaluated on a periodic basis. How often should this be? How can we monitor the consequences? How much of an exception for research should be allowed?
o When research on body composition assessment is performed a clear definition of S.E.E. (Standard Error of Estimate) is required so that the public and not just the researchers are aware of the true errors involved.
o No dancer nor female athlete with disordered eating should slip through the cracks. How can this be prevented?
o Education on scientific nutritional principles should be implemented into dance teaching and coaching certification programs.
o Dance medicine or sport medicine physicians and/or dietitians should be consulted if there is any concern for disordered eating in a dancer or female athlete.

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James D. Carson
Julia Alleyne
Eileen Bridges, Trevor Hall, Vicki J. Harber, Janice Harvey, Roger M. Hobden, Maureen Kennedy, Connie Lebrun, Bob MacKenzie, Margo Mountjoy, Carol D. Rodgers, Janet Yoneda