n South African Journal of Sports Medicine - Disordered eating and menstrual patterns in female university netball players : original research

Volume 23, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1015-5163
  • E-ISSN: 2078-516X



The primary aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of disordered eating (DE) behaviour and menstrual disorders in a group of provincial-to-national level student netball players. The secondary aim was to examine the relationship between body composition, energy intake, DE and menstrual patterns in student netball players.

Twenty-six white female netball players from a South African university volunteered to participate in this cross-sectional descriptive study. Height, weight and body composition were measured. Energy intake was assessed with 24-hour recalls and menstrual patterns were assessed with a menstrual history questionnaire. Players also completed an Eating Disorder Inventory (EDI) and an Eating Attitudes Test (EAT-26) to assess DE behaviour.
Collectively 14 players (54%) were identified with DE behaviour and scored above the designated cut-off score for the EAT-26 (≥20, N=3), the EDI Body Dissatisfaction subscale (≥14, N=7), the EDI Drive for Thinness subscale (≥15, N=3), and/or answered 'Yes' (N=8) to DE behavioural questions. Eight players (31%) reported menstrual irregularities during the past 12 months, of whom four (15%) also reported secondary amenorrhoea (absence of ≥3 consecutive menstrual cycles) during training. Five players (19%) presented with DE behaviour, menstrual irregularity and primary and/or secondary amenorrhoea. Reported energy intake was significantly lower in the players with menstrual irregularities and secondary amenorrhoea compared with the remaining players (p<0.05).
Top female student netball players may have suboptimal energy intakes and suffer from DE behaviour, menstrual irregularities and secondary amenorrhoea. Players and coaches should be aware of these risks to avoid related health and performance consequences.

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