Date of Degree Completion
Master of Science (MS)
Second Committee Member
Third Committee Member
Collegiate female distance runners may be at risk for low energy availability (LEA) due to increased exercise energy expenditure with or without decreased energy intake. Furthermore, this population has increased risk of disordered eating (DE), which can lead to LEA and negative health consequences, such as menstrual dysfunction (MD). Purpose: The purpose of this study was to: 1) investigate risk of LEA and DE and 2) compare DE, training volume, and weight dissatisfaction among female collegiate runners athletes at risk vs not at risk for LEA. Methods: Female runners (n = 287) who competed on an NCAA Division I, II, or III cross-country and/or track team completed an online questionnaire (45 questions). The questionnaire included the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAF-Q) which examines incidence of stress fractures, occurrence and frequency of menstrual cycles within the previous 12 months, contraceptive use, and gastrointestinal function. The Disordered Eating Screening Assessment (DESA-6) was used to examine risk of DE and weight dissatisfaction. Results: 54.5% (n = 156) of runners were at risk for LEA (score > 8 on LEAF-Q), and 40.8% (n = 117) were at risk for DE (DESA-6 score > 3), and 56.5% (n = 162) reported MD (LEAF-Q subsection MD score > 4). Athletes “at risk” for LEA had significantly higher DESA-6 scores than athletes “not at risk” for LEA (p < 0.001). Athletes “at risk” for LEA had significantly greater weight dissatisfaction than those not at risk for LEA (X23, 156 = 15.92, p = 0.001). Higher weekly training volumes was not associated with risk for LEA (X22, 156 = 4.20, p = 0.112). Conclusion: Consistent with previous literature, a substantial percentage of collegiate female runners were found to be at risk for LEA, DE, and report MD. These findings demonstrate that risk for DE, MD, and weight dissatisfaction are associated with risk for LEA.
Dambacher, Leah Louise, "Risk of Low Energy Availability, Disordered Eating, and Menstrual Dysfunction in Female Collegiate Runners" (2023). All Master's Theses. 1870.