(HealthDay News) – Female soccer athletes are at risk for delayed menarche, irregular and/or missed cycles, and stress fractures, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, held from Feb. 7 to 11 in San Francisco.
Heidi Prather, D.O., from Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues investigated the prevalence and risk factors for the female triad in 220 female soccer athletes, with a mean age of 16.4 years, from a youth soccer team, a university team, and a women’s professional team. Participants completed questionnaires regarding age of menarche; menstrual history; and history of musculoskeletal injury, including stress fractures. Body perception and attitudes towards eating were assessed using the Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26).
The researchers found that 64 percent of the athletes aged 10 to 14 years had not yet passed menarche; the average age of menarche for the other athletes was 13 years. Irregular cycles and/or absence of cycles were reported by 19%, 18%, and 20% of those aged 15 to 17 years, collegiate athletes, and professional athletes, respectively. On the EAT-26, one player scored in the high-risk range and 16 scored in the potentially-at-risk range. In 14.3% of the athletes there was a history of stress fractures, with the majority occurring in the ankle and foot.
“Elite female soccer athletes are at risk for delayed onset of menarche, menstrual dysfunction, and stress fractures despite reporting appropriate body perception and attitudes towards eating, likely as a result of imbalanced energy intake and output,” the authors write.