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Jenny H. Conviser, Amanda Schlitzer Tierney and Riley Nickols

It is estimated that 1.6 million people in the United States are currently diagnosed with an eating disorder. Eating disorders (EDs) have high rates of morbidity and mortality and remain the most severe mental illness. Unfortunately, rates of EDs and disordered eating behaviors (DEBs) among athletes appear to be increasing. In this study, authors summarize ED-related risks that pose compromises in psychological and social functioning, medical health, and overall quality of life. The importance of early detection and formal evaluation in preserving the athlete’s health, well-being and sustaining successful sport participation, and performance are highlighted. Athlete-specific factors, which challenge the ease and accuracy of ED detection and assessment, are noted. The recommended components of effective ED assessment are identified, including use of self-report measures and clinical interviews conducted by ED certified and licensed professionals. The importance of being well informed in tenets of ED awareness, prevention and supporting early detection, and referral for formal ED assessment are noted. Conclusions reflect the vital roles that both the multidisciplinary sport personnel and the sport environment/culture play in reducing the serious health risks of DEBs and EDs. Each is needed to protect an athlete’s well-being while fostering safe and successful sport participation.

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Jenny H. Conviser, Amanda Schlitzer Tierney and Riley Nickols

Eating disorders (EDs) and disordered-eating behaviors (DEBs), pose a high risk of morbidity and mortality, threatening physical health, emotional health, and overall quality of life. Unfortunately, among athletes, prevalence rates continue to increase. This document summarizes the challenges of establishing and navigating the multidisciplinary care needed to effectively treat EDs and DEBs among athletes. The benefits of timely and frequent communication within the multidisciplinary treatment team (MDTT) are emphasized and discussed. Authors advise who should be selected as members of the MDTT and suggest that all personnel, including athletic coaches, athletic trainers, physical therapists, and certified fitness professionals be ED-informed and ED-sensitive. Vital components of care are noted including use of a variety of evidence-based psychotherapeutic modalities, interventions which target emotional regulation, and prioritize values based compassionate care. Authors caution that performance decrements and medical/physiological changes are not always easily observable in individuals with EDs and DEBs and therefore, attuned, consistent, and ongoing monitoring is needed. Consensus regarding previously established parameters for return to play and careful titration of physical activity throughout the ED recovery process are suggested as important for preserving health, preventing re-injury, or relapse and facilitating successful return to sport participation.