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Curr Opin Pediatr. 2013 Dec;25(6):755-61. doi: 10.1097/MOP.0000000000000033.

Female athlete triad for the primary care pediatrician.

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  • 1Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center, Lebanon, New Hampshire, USA.



Female participation in athletics has increased significantly over the past several decades. For most young women, participation in sport fosters self-confidence, positive relationships with peers, and good physical health. However, with growing female representation in athletics, the sport community has become increasingly aware of the syndrome known as 'female athlete triad,' which describes the interplay between low energy availability (LEA), menstrual disturbances, and decreased bone mineral density (BMD). This review aims to discuss the definition and prevalence of the triad and prevention, detection, and treatment strategies.


Current research has elucidated the importance of identifying and treating the triad in young athletes, as adolescence is a critical time for bone development and failure to intervene can lead to long-term problems. First defined in 1992, full characterization of the triad in adolescents has been elusive because of difficulties in diagnosing low BMD in this population and reliance on self-report for menstrual disturbances and LEA. A 2007 reformulation of the triad incorporated research demonstrating that the full deleterious triad is rare and emphasized that its components exist on a spectrum. Removal of the stigma from the triad has the potential to allow earlier detection and treatment, thereby improving outcomes.


The female athlete triad is a problem with important long-term consequences. Education should be geared toward athletes as well as coaches, athletic trainers, school nurses, primary care providers, and others involved in female athletics to allow early identification and intervention.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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