Findings recently published in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine suggest that current evaluation methods used in health screenings for female college athletes are lacking and could be putting students at risk for lifelong health problems.
In the study (subscription required), researchers collected data by survey from 257 NCAA Division I universities about when and how often athletes completed health histories and physical examinations. They also analyzed the content of pre-participation examination forms used to further assess players' health. Medical News Today reports:
Of particular interest to the research team was whether the exams and forms comprehensively screen for the female athlete triad. The triad is an interrelationship between energy availability, menstrual function, and bone mineral density; researchers have found that in many sports, women do not take in enough nutrition (some have eating disorders), which leads to amenorrhea (absence of menstrual periods), and loss of bone density and strength.
The researchers found that 63 percent of the university athletic programs surveyed only completed a full history and exam on freshmen and transfer athletes, rather than every year or every other year.
Furthermore, only 25 universities (9 percent) had 9 or more of the 12 Female Athlete Triad Coalition screening recommendations included on their pre-participation examination forms.
Study results, researchers say, point to a need to revise the health evaluation process to include screening tools for the female athlete triad. Such tools could include having athletes complete 72-hour food diaries to measure energy intake and using accelerometers to measure energy expenditure, suggests Anne Hoch, DO, the study’s corresponding author. However, future studies are needed to determine which tools effectively screen for the female athlete triad.