Susceptibility to Eating Disorders Among Collegiate Female Student-Athletes

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Research has suggested that the prevalence of young women with eating disorders (EDs) is increasing, but determining the exact prevalence of EDs within the female student-athlete (FS-A) population is difficult. Looking at certain traits may help us to identify their level of susceptibility to developing an ED. Objective : To determine the susceptibility of FS-As to EDs in relation to self-concept, including self-esteem and body image. Design : Cross-sectional study. Setting : Athletic training and health centers at National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I, II, and III institutions via e-mail questionnaire correspondence. Patients or Other Participants : A total of 439 FS-As from 17 participating institutions completed the questionnaires. The sample was primarily white (83.1%) and underclass (61.8%). Main Outcome Measure(s) : The questionnaire consisted of 4 parts: 3 subscales of the Eating Disorder Inventory-2, the Rosenberg Self-Esteem Scale, the Body Cathexis Scale, and demographic items. Results : A total of 6.8% of FS-As were susceptible to anorexia and 1.8% were susceptible to bulimia. The majority of FS-As (61%) reported normal self-esteem levels, whereas 29.4% had high self-esteem. Overall, 64.5% were satisfied and 23% were very satisfied with their body image. Conclusions : These results are generally positive in that they suggest FS-As have high levels of self-concept and are at low risk to develop EDs. However, these findings do not mean that all concerns should be dismissed. Although more than 90% of the respondents were not susceptible to an ED, there are still FS-As who may be. Athletic departments should evaluate their FS-As' levels of self-concept so that their susceptibility to EDs can be addressed. The emotional aspect of health care should be included in providing holistic care for student-athletes. Athletic trainers often are the primary health care providers for FS-As, so they should be made aware of this concern.