Low-Cal Athletic Diets Risk Stress Fractures

'Disordered eating' in female competitors releases fewer protective hormones

FRIDAY, Sept. 22, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Female college athletes who restrict their calorie intake may be putting themselves at risk for stress fractures, new research finds.

In a study published in the September issue for the American Journal of Sports Medicine, researchers from Saint Louis University investigated possible causes of exercise-related leg pain, including stress fractures, in 76 female college athletes playing soccer, field hockey, cross-country running or volleyball.

The athletes who developed stress fractures were more likely to have "disordered eating," which included insufficient calorie intake due to eating disorders and other nutritional deficiencies.

"When people expend more calories than they consume, they release fewer hormones, which slows down menstrual cycles. This decreases estrogen in the body, which is responsible for bone development," Mark Reinking, chairman of the department of physical therapy at Saint Louis University's Doisy College of Health Sciences, said in a prepared statement.

Risk fractures for exercise-related leg pain overall were a prior history of leg pain, disordered eating, and excessive pronation (rolling inward) of the foot.

More information

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has more about stress fractures.

SOURCE: Saint Louis University Medical Center, news release, Sept. 13, 2006
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