A serious commitment to sport and exercise may predispose female athletes to the development of eating disorders. The energy restriction and accompanying menstrual disorders that are often associated with eating disorders may increase female athletes’ injury risks. The purpose of this study was to assess NCAA Division I, II, and III female collegiate cross country athletes’ weekly exercise time, rates of injury, menstrual dysfunction, and subclinical eating disorder risks. A paper-pencil survey was completed by athletes (mean age = 19.64 years) from NCAA Division I (n = 82), Division II (n = 103) and Division III (n = 115) colleges across the United States. Division I athletes spent significantly more weekly exercise time (M = 687.97 minutes) than Division II (M = 512.38 minutes, p = .0007) or Division III (M = 501.32 minutes, p = .0003) athletes. When examining rates of menstrual dysfunction, 23 percent reported amenorrhea or oligomenorrhea. Over 60 percent (64.3%) of the athletes reported a performance-related injury, with the knee being the most commonly injured site. 24 percent (23.7%) of the athletes reported having stress fractures. Scores for subclinical eating disorders for Division I athletes were significantly higher (M = 87.11) than Division III athletes (M = 82.94, p = .0042). Division I female athletes may be at an increased risk of developing subclinical eating disorders compared to those competing in Division II or III. Because early identification of those with subclinical eating disorders prevents the progression to eating disorders, further study is warranted.
Sharon H. Thompson, Ed.D. Spadoni College of Education coastal Carolina University. Conway, South Carolina, 29528