Background: Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is common among female athletes and may be difficult to treat. Restoration of menses (ROM) is crucial to prevent deleterious effects to skeletal and reproductive health. Objectives: To determine the natural history of menstrual disturbances in female college athletes managed with nonpharmacologic therapies including increased dietary intake and/or decreased exercise expenditure and to identify factors associated with ROM. Study Design: A 5-yr retrospective study of college athletes at a major Division I university. Methods: 373 female athletes’ charts were reviewed. For athletes with menstrual disturbances, morphometric variables were noted. Months to ROM were recorded for each athlete. Results: Fifty-one female athletes (19.7%) had menstrual disturbances (14.7% oligomenorrheic, 5.0% amenorrheic). In all, 17.6% of oligo-/amenorrheic athletes experienced ROM with nonpharmacologic therapy. Mean time to ROM among all athletes with menstrual disturbances was 15.6 ± 2.6 mo. Total absolute (5.3 ± 1.1 kg vs. 1.3 ± 1.1 kg, p < .05) and percentage (9.3% ± 1.9% vs. 2.3% ± 1.9%, p < .05) weight gain and increase in body-mass index (BMI; 1.9 ± 0.4 kg/m2 vs. 0.5 ± 0.4 kg/m2, p < .05) emerged as the primary differentiating characteristics between athletes with ROM and those without ROM. Percent weight gain was identified as a significant positive predictor of ROM, OR (95% CI) = 1.25 (1.01, 1.56), p < .05. Conclusions: Nonpharmacologic intervention in college athletes with menstrual disturbances can restore regular menstrual cycles, although ROM may take more than 1 yr. Weight gain or an increase in BMI may be important predictors of ROM.
Keywords: functional hypothalamic amenorrhea, menstrual disturbances in athletes, female athlete triad, increased energy availability, disordered eating