female athlete

Female athlete triad involves inadequate nutrient intake, irregular menstrual cycles, and premature bone loss (osteoporosis).

A 19-year-old who used to run three-to-seven miles a day, Laura now feels pain and limps even when walking. Jessica is a competitive college lacrosse player who has repeatedly sat on the sidelines during the past two seasons with foot pain. Both women are being treated for stress fractures, but they also share increased risk for a condition that can lead to irreversible loss of bone density if not recognized and treated early.

Dr. Elizabeth Matzkin, Surgical Director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, explains that, while stress fractures are among the most common sports injuries in women, they also are a potential indicator of the female athlete triad. The female athlete triad is a common spectrum of interrelated issues, including inadequate nutrient intake, irregular menstrual cycles, and premature bone loss (osteoporosis), which can result in long-term, irreversible loss of bone density.  Both competitive and recreational female athletes can be found to have problems related to the female athlete triad.

“Laura and Jessica are expected to fully recover from their stress fractures and resume their athletic activities, but they also are being closely evaluated for underlying problems associated with the female athlete triad,” said Dr. Matzkin. “It is critical that this condition be recognized and treated early because lost bone density can never be replaced. Without intervention, women with unrecognized signs of the female athlete triad are at risk for repeat stress fractures and serious bone issues later in life.”

Because of these risks, Laura and Jessica are undergoing comprehensive nutritional assessments, review of their menstrual cycles, and bone density, Vitamin D, and calcium evaluations. A range of Program specialists will treat issues found to be related to the female athlete triad.

If you experience stress fractures or repeat pain with athletic activity, be sure to talk with your doctor.

Watch a video about the Female Athlete Triad:

 

-Jessica F

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