Athletes (both males and females) are at a higher risk of developing an eating disorder than non-athletes. Studies show that approximately 20% of female athletes have eating disorders (compared to 5% of non-athletes). Rates are higher in aesthetic sports (gymnastics, figure skating), weight classes (rowing), and sports where a low body mass is seen as an advantage (cross-country or cycling).
Athletes who severely manipulate their dietary intake or engage in purging are at risk of cardiac arrhythmia. The mortality rate for eating disorders is the highest of any mental illness. So it’s critical that coaches, instructors and trainers be adequately trained to recognize the warning signs of eating disorders, understand the risks involved, use pre-screening tools and validated protocols to ensure the athlete is healthy enough to train, engage in conversations with their athletes when they have concerns, work cooperatively with treatment professionals and parents to support recovery and examine coaching language and materials to ensure the promotion of health and proper nutrition to support peak performance.