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The sport of wrestling often encourages participants to engage in extreme weight loss practices in order to compete in a weight class one to three weight categories below normal weight. This review discusses the prevalence of the problem, methods wrestlers use to accomplish weight loss, and the health and performance consequences of rapid weight loss, with particular emphasis on weight cycling and minimal safe wrestling weight assessment. Some useful and practical recommendations for minimizing extreme weight loss practices are presented. Several state wrestling associations have adjusted their rules and regulations based on recommendations by organizations such as the American College of Sports Medicine to reduce the prevalence of the problem. Nevertheless, extreme weight loss continues to be a concern among health professionals, particularly with regard to health and performance.
Heidi L. Keller, Stephen E. Tolly, and Patty S. Freedson are with the Department of Exercise Science at the University of Massachusetts, Boyden Gym, Amherst, MA 01003.