Objectives: The primary aim of this study was to investigate disordered eating (DE) behavior and menstrual patterns in provincial-to-national level student netball players. The secondary aim was to examine the associations between body composition, energy intake, DE and menstrual patterns in student netball players. Methods: Twenty six Caucasian female netball players from a South African University volunteered to participate in this cross-sectional descriptive study. Height, weight and body composition were measured. Energy intake was assessed with 24-hour recalls and menstrual patterns were assessed with a menstrual history questionnaire. Players also completed an Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) and an Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) to assess DE behavior. Results: Collectively 14 players (54.8%) were identified with DE behavior and scored above the designated cut-off score for the EAT-26 (≥20, n=3), the EDI Body Dissatisfaction subscale (EDI-BD) (≥14, n=7), the EDI Drive for Thinness subscale (EDI-DT) (≥15, n=3), and/or answered “Yes” (n=8) to DE behavioral questions. Eight players (30.8%) reported menstrual irregularities during the past 12 months of which four (15.4%) also reported secondary amenorrhea (absence of ≥3 consecutive menstrual cycles) during training. Five players (19.2%) presented with DE behavior, menstrual irregularity and primary and/or secondary amenorrhea. Reported energy intake was significantly lower in the players with menstrual irregularities and secondary amenorrhea compared to the remaining players (p less than 0.05). Conclusions: Top female student netball players may have suboptimal energy intakes and suffer from DE behavior, menstrual irregularities and secondary amenorrhea. Players and coaches should be aware of these risks and related health and performance consequences.
South African Journal of Sports Medicine / Vol. 23, No. 3, pp.68-72