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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Michigan: For Many Female Athletes, Bone Stress and Missing Period Is the Norm

The culture of running promotes a body weight and size ideal that is unhealthy among elite female collegiate distance runners, according to preliminary findings from a series of interviews by University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers.

The topic recently gained media attention after former star Nike athlete Ms. Mary Cain’s personal account of maltreatment she allegedly endured under head coach Mr. Alberto Salazar. After the allegations were published in The New York Times, the U.S. Center for SafeSport placed Mr. Salazar on a temporarily banned list.

Michigan Public Health doctoral student Ms. Traci Carson has heard the story about elite athletes being pushed to the limit before. Ms. Carson and assistant professor of epidemiology, Dr. Carrie Karvonen-Gutierrez, conducted interviews with elite collegiate distance runners that self-reported a personal experience with restrictive/disordered eating.

The women shared personal stories of how body shaming from coaches, body size ideals of the sport, and mistrust of nutrition staff contributed to current and/or past eating and mental health disorders.

The researchers have also launched a study among National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) female cross-country runners that aims to address the gap in our understating of culture of the sport and how it impacts the health of this population.

Read the Q&A.

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