Just Girly Things: What is a Female Athlete Triad?

Just Girly Things - What is a Female Athlete TriadSports and exercise are healthy activities for females of all ages. Some female athletes who focus on being thin or lightweight may be eating in small amounts or working out too much. This is not really a good practice at all because doing so can leave long-term damage to health, or even death. It can also lower performance level or necessitate them to limit or stop exercising. When a woman has an unhealthy habit of eating small and exercising too much, she may develop three interrelated illnesses. Together, these conditions are known as the female athlete triad.

Female Athlete Triad

The female athlete triad is the combination of disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and osteoporosis. This disorder goes unrecognized. The consequences of female athlete triad can be devastating for a female athlete. She cannot keep up with the physical demands of the sport and can lose bone density which may never be regained.

Disordered Eating

Female athletes are under intense pressure to have a low body fat for performance, resulting in a vulnerable athlete resorting to disordered eating. They try to lose weight as a way to improve their athletic performance. The disordered eating can range from keeping a low calorie intake to avoiding some food the athlete thinks are unhealthy, such as foods containing fat, to serious eating disorders.

Menstrual Dysfunction

Menstrual dysfunction is more common in athletes than in the general population. Athletes who begin training before menarche occurs may experience a later menarche and may more likely to experience menstrual dysfunction compared to girls who begin training after menarche. Female athletes who eat too little, train too much, and carry too little body fat stop menstruating, do not produce enough estrogen and start to lose bone mass.

Premature Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis refers to low bone mass and fragility of the bones. Bone loss can be lead by a number of factors including low estrogen or testosterone, increasing age, corticosteroids, decreased weight or muscle mass, smoking, and alcohol. The risk of stress fractures is higher among athletes with disordered eating and those who are deficient in vitamin D.


Treatment principles for female athlete triad include reducing the intensity of training until menstruation resume, increasing caloric intake, ensuring adequate calcium and vitamin D intake, encouraging weight-bearing exercise where appropriate, and consideration of hormone replacement therapy. Prevention by educating young female athletes helps ensure their health and safety. Treatment of the triad often requires intervention via a team approach of health care professionals and the support of family, friends, teammates and coaches.

How Can We Help?

A physiotherapist is an integral part of an interdisciplinary team and is involved in examination, evaluation, assessment and rehabilitation of athletes and orthopaedic injuries.

When it comes to stress fractures, the physiotherapist is often the first to work with athletes. As Perth physiotherapists, we can work with you on your biomechanics and functional strength to reduce the risk of stress fractures due to imbalances. We aim to promote overall health and fitness through exercise, patient education, and healthy lifestyle.

Do you suffer from female athlete triad syndrome? Call i Physio Perth today at 9444 8729!