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Eating Disorders in Athletes

Effective ways of handling athletes with eating disorders is needed. Current data suggest increased risks of eating disorders if left unsupervised, most affected athletes do not seek interventions for fear of being discovered and most athletes have little knowledge on weight loss and receive their information from haphazard sources. Establishing a network of qualified professionals, who can handle interventions fully, provide a continuous seamless care, and set up early detection screening measures and develop initiatives for prevention is the key. Athlete management is complex, requiring interdisciplinary collaboration among nutritionists, physicians, psychotherapists, trainers, administrators, coaches and CSOs for positive outcomes. However, the trainer is in a more unique position as they play the role of caregiver, informed patient advocate and educator, so they should be prepared to act accordingly. The trainer should be educated on sports environment and culture and work hard at dispelling stereotypical sport and eating disorder beliefs. They should have confidence in their ability to communicate and trained on approach measures for suspected athletes with disordered eating.

It is recommended that studies should be conducted to identify the range of risk factors that may play part in the onset of eating disorders in athletes, as it is unknown whether sports plays a contributory or preventive role on the onset. Future research is also needed to firmly confirm the epidemiology of eating disorders and their disordered behavior both in male and female populations. This is because there needs to be both a phenomenological and etiological distinctions in eating disorders between male and female athletes for an effective prevention and treatment strategy. A worldwide platform should also be set for coaches who have worked with athletes with eating disorders to share their experience. In conclusion, eating disorders are grave and need a multidisciplinary team approach for thorough diagnosis and treatment. The quicker help is sought, the sooner the affected athlete starts the recovery road.

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