difficulties as a risk factor for athletes’ eating psychopathology

V., Jowett, S. and Meyer, C. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.
2013. doi: 10.1111/sms.12109

Home Message: An athlete’s perceived level of conflict with a coach is related
to his/her risk of developing an eating psychopathology.

disorders are far from uncommon within the realm of athletics and recent
research has identified athletes to be at an increased risk of developing
eating disorders as well as problematic eating attitudes. Eating disorders can
lead to long term detrimental physiological and psychological outcomes and are
the leading cause of mortality above all other mental health issues. Due to the
fact that it is not understood why exactly athletes are particularly at risk
for eating disorders, investigation in this subject matter is extremely
important. This article delves into research about this subject and tries to
determine the predictive role of interpersonal difficulties such as
relationship quality and attachment styles on eating psychopathology among
competitive British athletes. The study involved 122 British athletes (36 males
and 86 females) with a mean age of ~21 years and ranging from collegiate to
athletes at international competitive levels. Some of the athletes were
involved with individual sports such as swimming, cycling and judo, while the
other athletes participated in team sports such as rugby, football, and hockey.
Data collection consisted of a study pack including a demographic
questionnaire, Eating Disorder Examination Questionnaire, Sport-Specific Quality of Relationship Inventory, and Experiences in Close Relationships. The athletes completed
the packs at baseline and at this time the authors collected their body mass
index (BMI). Six months later the authors gave the same study pack to the athletes
and measured the athletes’ BMI again to collect a second round of data. This
study found that out of all of the possible predictors, the conflict with the
coach was the only independent predictor of athletes’ eating psychopathology.

study helps solidify the idea that those suffering from unsupportive relationships
that are constantly filled with conflict, especially athletes, can be at
increased risk of suffering from eating disorders or problematic eating
attitudes. Although we still cannot be 100% sure why exactly athletes are at
more risk for eating disorders, this study found that interpersonal
relationships, especially between player and coach, play a huge role in eating
psychopathology. We can hypothesize that because athletes spend countless
amounts of hours in the company of their teammates and coaches due to their
rigorous schedules, these relationships may not always be healthy or without
conflict and can cause increased risk of unhealthy eating habits and attitudes.
The findings of this study could allow for immediate education to be
implemented in athletic venues in regards to training athletes and coaches about
the potential issues surrounding eating habits. Education is key, but if all
else fails, there could also potentially be other interventions involving
sports nutritionists and even sports psychologists to work with both the
athletes as well as coaching staff. This study could potentially be used in many
different venues of athletics as well, such as cheerleading, ballet, rowing,
gymnastics, and also wrestling, all sports that demand a large amount of practice,
time, and effort, but also there is such a stigma about what these athletes
should look like, which I would presume could pose a even higher risk of poor
eating psychopathology.

Questions for
Discussion: As a clinician, have you ever had to deal with a patient who was
suffering from an eating disorder and found it was due to their interpersonal
relationships? Do you feel like it should be part of the role of an athletic
trainer to be trained to identify “divergent” relationships between players and
coaches? How important is it for athletes to feel like they can go to their
supervising clinician for a “safe haven” to discuss any possible issues
regarding eating issues and/or unhealthy relationships?

by: Chelsea Jacoby
by: Lisa Chinn and Jeffrey Driban


Genetic Associations of Recovery from Eating Disorders

Shanmugam V, Jowett S, & Meyer C (2013). Interpersonal difficulties as a risk factor for athletes’ eating psychopathology. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports PMID: 23992547