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The Female Athlete Triad: Who Is At Risk?

The Female Athlete Triad: Who Is At Risk?

In Rush Hour 3, Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker race—and stumble—across Paris trying to protect a French woman from the menace of The Triad (a criminal organization out of Hong Kong). But the danger they fear from The Triad is nothing compared to the dangers of what the Journal of the American College of Orthopedic Surgeons identifies as the Female Athlete Triad.

Symptoms include low energy availability or too few calories, menstrual cycle abnormalities (40% of female athletes have irregular periods) and low bone mineral density, setting up young female athletes for bone loss, stress injuries and fractures. 

If you have one symptom, the likelihood that you’ll sustain a bone injury rises 15-21%; two symptoms boost it to 21-30%; and with all three it’s a whopping 29-50%. Girls and women participating in athletics that demand intense weight control, such as gymnastics and ice skating, are particularly vulnerable.

When Serena Williams trained her way to her sixth Wimbledon championship you can bet she didn’t risk low energy or brittle bones! And neither should you.

  • Eat sufficient calories so your body fat never goes below 22-12%.
  • Get fuel from bone-building foods rich in calcium, magnesium and vitamin D: green, leafy veggies, D-enriched whole grain cereal, low-fat dairy, almonds, salmon and tuna.
  • Have your vitamin D level checked and ask about taking a vitamin D3 supplement to help your body absorb calcium. Take half a multivitamin morning and night.

Now go play hard—try 40 jumps a day to build hip bone strength. 

Medically reviewed in December 2019.

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