Baptist Health La Grange: Signs and Symptoms of Female Athlete Triad Syndrome
Menstrual irregularities, disordered eating, and low bone density are common signs of female athlete triad syndrome. Learn more about the warning signs parents should watch for in young athletes.
Signs and Symptoms of Female Athlete Triad Syndrome HealthTalks Transcript
Danielle Mann, DO
The female athlete triad syndrome has three components. It involves menstrual irregularities, disordered eating and osteoporosis. Some warning signs a parent should look out for in their young athletes are: menstrual irregularities, if they have not seen their menstrual cycle by the age of 15; if they’re not reaching their puberty milestones, meaning the breasts have not formed or pubic hair has not been forming; and additionally, if a female athlete has skipped a cycle for more than three months, then they need to see me.
A female athlete can miss a period when there is an energy imbalance. If a young female athlete is expending a lot of energy, but she’s not taking in a lot of calories, it can affect the hypothalamus. The amount of energy that a woman has helps the hypothalamus to signal the pituitary gland. If the pituitary gland is not signaled, then the pituitary gland cannot signal the ovaries, and if the ovaries cannot be signaled, then they cannot make estrogen. If you’re not making estrogen, then it affects your menstrual cycle. Over a long period of time, osteoporosis can set in, and the problem with that is that in the adolescent years, that is when you’re building most of your bone density to last a lifetime.
As a parent, I think it’s important to really pay attention to the menstrual cycle in your young female athlete, and the key to that is all about the energy balance. A female athlete who is taking in enough calories and menstruating normally knows that she is in good health and doing well for her body.