Girls who participate in sports usually enjoy better health, earn higher grades, and lower their risk for unplanned pregnancy and substance abuse. However, parents need to recognize the signs of female athlete triad and intervene if their daughters are overdoing it.
Female athlete triad involves an energy imbalance that may include eating disorders, absent or irregular menstrual periods, and loss of bone mass. Medical care is usually required to avoid serious health issues.
Learn how to keep your daughter healthy and fit. Study this quick guide to female athlete triad.
Changes in Diet and Training:
- Count calories. Many young girls feel pressured to be thin, especially if they’re involved in activities where body weight is an issue, such as gymnastics or dance. Help your daughter understand how many calories she needs daily and discuss the consequences of extreme diets.
- Eat healthy fats. The idea that eating fat makes you fat is a myth. In reality, fats are an essential macronutrient. Watch to see if your daughter avoids foods like dairy products and eggs.
- Take supplements. Whole foods provide adequate nutrition for most athletes. However, girls who have developed deficiencies may need supplements like calcium and vitamin D at least temporarily.
- Exercise in moderation. Act quickly if you see signs of overtraining, such as fatigue, irritability, and stress fractures. Talk with your child’s school if you have concerns about their sports programs becoming too competitive.
- Strengthen bones. Childhood and adolescence are the most important years for investing in peak bone mass. Girls who weaken their bones with excessive training and inadequate diets are at higher risk for osteoporosis.
- Rest up. Explain the benefits of rest to your daughter. Taking adequate time off prevents injuries and helps muscles grow stronger.
- Work with a nutritionist. If you’re unsure about what to feed your children, consult a nutritionist. Some of them specialize in serving young female athletes.
- Listen to your doctor. If your daughter has even one of the three symptoms of female athlete triad, she may need medical care. Following your physician’s recommendations will help her recover faster.
- Boost self-esteem. Any athlete will be more resilient if their confidence is based on more than their sports performance. Let your daughter know that she is valuable just for being who she is. Provide a positive role model and praise her for her personal qualities like kindness and courage.
- Reduce stress. Help your child find ways to deal with internal and external sources of tension. Listen to her concerns and help her find methods that work for her, such as talking things through or writing in a journal.
- Encourage other interests. It’s sometimes difficult for athletes to stay well-rounded. If your daughter’s life seems to revolve around soccer, introduce her to other sports and cultural activities. Visit the library regularly and do volunteer work.
- Track periods. Irregular periods are common in the first few years of menstruation but looking for patterns can help in diagnosing many health conditions. Show your daughter how to mark a calendar to help her understand her own cycle.
- Seek counseling. Talk therapy and medication may help with some of the psychological and emotional aspects of female athlete triad. Ask your doctor for a referral or check professional directories for a counselor who specializes in working with adolescents.
Your daughter can enjoy the benefits of playing sports without compromising her health. Knowing how to deal with female athlete triad will help you to guide her in balancing her competitive drive with her overall wellbeing.
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