Eating Disorders

Eating disorders

Tiger Bites staff is concerned with the student athlete as a whole person and have been trained to identify potential warning signs that may indicate disordered eating behavior.  Athletes are two to three times more likely than the general population to develop disordered eating. A recent report from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) found the prevalence of disordered eating to be as high as 20% in adolescent and adult female elite athletes, and as high as 8% in adult and adolescent male elite athletes. Disordered eating behaviors occur in athletes participating in all sports, at all competition levels, and in all athlete body types. Eating disorders can be difficult to detect and can have devastating long term effects.

Eating Disorders Screening Tool


Athletes and Eating Disorders: 5 Key Warning Signs

1). Eating too little, exercising or training too hard – Fueling for sport is the cornerstone of peak performance, injury prevention and overall wellness. Yet attempts to “optimize” the athlete’s diet can easily become too rigid and result in disordered eating behaviors. Calorie counting, restricting specific foods or following strict diets can contribute to inadequate nutritional intake. Similarly, athletes are vulnerable to overtraining. Exercise places stress on the body. Excessive stress without rest and proper nourishment increases the risk for injury.

2). Increased focus on weight, shape, size and appearance – Discontent or focus on one’s weight, shape, size and appearance is typically followed by increased urges to eat less food, exercise more and gain control over appearance. Coupled with perfectionism, anxiety and persistent feelings of inadequacy, these patterns of behavior can frequently precipitate an eating disorder.

3). Underweight or notable weight loss – Slight shifts in body weight are expected when athletes move in and out of their competitive season. Rapid shifts in weight or prolonged periods of remaining underweight reflect inadequate food intake relative to energy needs for sport. Don’t buy into the “thin to win” mentality! An energy deficit for an athlete is extremely serious and could be another sign of an eating disorder. To maintain function without fuel, the body will rob from its internal systems. Over time, function and performance are reduced and eventually the body will operate at a fraction of its full capacity.

4). Abnormal sex hormone cycles – Abnormal sex hormone cycles often signal insufficient energy intake, a hallmark of an eating disorder. The body perceives the energy deficit as a threat to survival and will sacrifice vitality and reproduction for short term energy. For males, abnormal sex hormone cycles typically manifest in low testosterone. Symptoms include fatigue, lack of energy, reduced muscle mass and strength, decreased bone mass, mood changes, disrupted sleep, low sex drive and hair loss. For females, abnormal sex hormone cycles are further characterized by missed, irregular or shorter menstrual periods. Birth control pills can mask symptoms, so females are encouraged to talk with their doctor.

5). Stress fractures and overuse injuries – Although the age-old saying of “No pain, no gain,” frequently pervades the sports environment, injuries are not a sign of dedication to sport. In fact, stress fractures and overuse injuries can indicate that something is very wrong, like an undetected eating disorder. The combination of insufficient food and nutrient intake, high level training and low body weight reduces the strength of bones over time and naturally increases the risk for injuries. This risk is preventable with appropriate eating plans and exercise programming.

While not every case of energy deficiency or injury in athletics is the direct result of an eating disorder, exploration of early warning signs is essential, especially since eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any psychiatric disorder.


Mountjoy M, Sundgot-Borgen J, Burke L, Carter S, Constantini N, Lebrun C, Meyer N, Sherman R, Steffen K, Budgett R, Ljungqvist A.  (2014). The IOC Consensus Statement: Beyond the Female Athlete Triad - Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). British Journal of Sports Medicine, 28 (7). Retrieved December 4, 2019.
Retrieved December 4, 2019,  from Athletes and Eating Disorders: 5 Key Warning Signs.

Eating Disorders

This policy has been developed to assist student-athletes who are identified as at risk for eating disorders. The central component is the formulation of an eating disorder assistance team with the goal to support the health and athletic performance of those identified with or suspected of eating disorders. Members of the team should include a team physician, staff athletic trainer, a dietician recommended by the physician and mental health professional. 

Procedure: Once the student-athlete is identified by a coach, athletic trainer, fellow student-athlete or his/herself as demonstrating signs/symptoms related to an eatingdisorder, the response procedures are as follows:

  1. The head athletic trainer and sport assigned staff athletic trainer should be notified of the potential eating disorder.
  2. The staff athletic trainer should then approach the student-athlete with the information that was brought to the attention of the athletic training staff.
  3. The staff athletic trainer should then send the student-athlete to the team physician, or another medical specialist appointed by the team physician.
  4. The team physician may then refer the student athlete to a dietician and/or mental health professional for further evaluation and counseling.
  5. The staff athletic trainer will be responsible to ensure that the initial appointment is set and attended.

After the student-athlete has been seen by all members of the eating disorder assistance team, the team physician and staff athletic trainer should determine a plan of action. They should then meet with the student-athlete and discuss how the plan of action will be implemented to ensure compliance and assist the student-athlete with this condition.