Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Umoren, Josephine

Degree Name

M.S. (Master of Science)

Legacy Department

School of Health Studies


The Female Athlete Triad (Triad) is the three interrelated conditions of low energy availability with or without disordered eating, menstrual irregularity or amenorrhea, and osteoporosis, and is a health concern that affects active women of all ages who participate in physical activity. Although associations have been found between the individual components of the Triad, research is still limited on all Triad components occurring simultaneously in athletes. In addition, research on the college-age female population is currently limited. The purpose of this study was to examine Triad risk factors in the college-age female athlete population compared to the non-athlete population, specifically focusing on the risk factor of inadequate energy availably and eating disorders.

A non-experimental cross-sectional study design was conducted during the spring semester to assess presence of the Triad risk factors among females attending a Midwestern university. A total for 1537 female students participated in this study. An online survey composed of the LEAF-Q questionnaire and the EAT-26 questionnaire was used to assess the risk factors for the Female Athlete Triad and risk for eating disorders, respectively.

Independent samples t-tests and chi square tests were used to analyze differences in risk for low energy availability and risk for eating disorders between the two groups of participants. There were no significant differences between the athlete and non-athlete groups, in risk for the Female Athlete Triad as measured by the mean LEAF-Q scores. However, within the athlete group, associations were found in number of training days, age of first menstrual period, and amenorrhea for three consecutive months. Results showed no significant (p =0.74) differences between athlete and non-athlete groups in risk for eating disorders using mean EAT-26 scores. More non-athletes (20%) were associated with avoiding foods with carbohydrate content, while a higher number of athletes (4%) were associated with having the impulse to vomit after meals. Additionally, a significant (p = 0.01) difference was found between the athlete and non-athlete groups in their response to the question, “Gone on eating binges where you feel that you may not be able to stop?” Overall, there were no significance (p = 0.07) differences between the number of athletes who were considered at risk for both inadequate energy intake and an eating disorder compared to non-athletes.

Associations between athletes and the Female Athlete Triad are evident, but the Triad components are not yet fully understood. Results of this study suggest a need for screening and monitoring female athletes for Triad risk factors.


136 pages




Northern Illinois University

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