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.
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.
A 5-yr retrospective study of college athletes at a major Division I university.
373 female athletes’ charts were reviewed. For athletes with menstrual disturbances, morphometric variables were noted. Months to ROM were recorded for each athlete.
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.
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.