Male Jocks Suffer Image Problems, Too

Body image problems can plague these elite athletes, study finds

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SATURDAY, Aug. 9, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- Body image problems and eating disorders are often associated with women, but men are not always spared from these issues.

An Ohio State University survey found that about one in five elite male university athletes said they believed they didn't have enough muscle and wanted to gain weight -- an average of 3.2 pounds.

"Some male athletes see pictures in men's fitness magazines of big, extremely muscular men and feel that they don't measure up," researcher Jennifer Carter, psychologist at Ohio State's Sports Medicine Center, says in a news release.

Her study included 882 athletes, 57 percent of whom were men. The results were presented Aug. 8 at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

Some of the findings about male athletes include:

  • Nine percent reported using performance-enhancing drugs or substances, such as creatine.
  • Five percent said they avoided situations where they had to expose their bodies, such as wearing a swimsuit.
  • Four percent reported that they're preoccupied about the inadequacy of their body size and suffer significant distress or impairment as a result of that.
  • Four percent said they frequently give up important activities because of their workout or diet schedule.

"There hasn't been a lot of research about eating disorders among male athletes, but I think it may be a growing problem," Carter says.

"I don't have male athletes approaching me to say they have an eating disorder, but I do see athletes who say they are concerned about their body and want to be bigger and more muscular. Sometimes their desire to be more muscular has little to do with improving their athletic performance," she says.

Some male athletes who feel they aren't lean and muscular enough could resort to unhealthy behaviors, such as the use of performance-enhancing drugs. They could develop a body image disorder called muscle dysmorpha. The study showed that about 1.1 percent of male athletes may suffer from the disorder.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about eating disorders.

SOURCE: Ohio State University, news release, Aug. 8, 2003

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