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Eating disorders in female athletes are a commonly underdiagnosed condition. Better screening tools for eating disorders in athletic females could help increase diagnosis and help athletes get the treatment they need.
Focused Clinical Question:
Should screening tools be used to detect eating disorders in female athletes?
Summary of Key Findings:
The literature was searched for studies that included information regarding the sensitivity and specificity of screening tools for eating disorders in female athletes. The search returned 5 possible articles related to the clinical question; 3 studies met the inclusion criteria (2 cross-sectional studies, 1 cohort study) and were included. All 3 studies reported sensitivity and specificity for the Athletic Milieu Direct Questionnaire version 2, the Brief Eating Disorder in Athletes Questionnaire version 2, and the Physiologic Screening Test to Detect Eating Disorders Among Female Athletes. All 3 studies found that the respective screening tool was able to accurately identify female athletes with eating disorders; however, the screening tools varied in sensitivity and specificity values.
Clinical Bottom Line:
There is strong evidence to support the use of screening tools to detect eating disorders in female athletes. Screening tools with higher sensitivity and specificity have demonstrated a successful outcome of determining athletes with eating disorders or at risk for developing an eating disorder.
Strength of Recommendation:
There is grade A evidence available to demonstrate that screening tools accurately detect female athletes at risk for eating disorders.
The authors are with the Athletic Training Program, A.T. Still University, Mesa, AZ.