Eating disorders are more common among athletes competing at the elite level compared to controls. A controlled study among female elite athletes (n=603), the prevalence of eating disorders was examined, and the results revealed an occurrence of 20% among female elite athletes as compared to controls (9%).
Concerning the physical and psychosocial complications related to eating disorders and the use of extreme weight regulation methods, it is strongly desirable to prevent eating disorders in sport. At present, no studies concerning prevention of eating disorders among elite athletes have been performed and strategies to prevent eating disorders are lacking
Thus the aims of this study are to examining the prevalence of eating disorders among young elite athletes, followed by an intervention intended to reduce the risk for young elite athletes to develop eating disorders.
The project consists of two parts: A survey and a randomized controlled intervention study. The survey involved both athletes and coaches, and took place during the fall 2008. In pre- and posttests the survey will include both standardized tests and own developed questions, and a clinical interview with the athletes.
The sample is the total population of first grade students starting in the fall 2008 at Elite Sport High Schools in Norway. There are sixteen schools/divisions containing 711 athletes and 194 coaches attending the project. After this survey, half of the schools were randomly selected for participation in the intervention, while the second half continued with regular lectures as the projects control group.
The intervention included lectures and exercises in different areas which are considered important in the preventing eating disorders. The intervention started in the spring in 2009 and was completed in May 2010. The first post-test was consisted right after the intervention, while the last post-test will take place April/Mars 2011.
The results of this long-term intervention project will reveal important knowledge on how to prevent eating disorders among athletes.
Results from the first screening performed in 2008 is now published in British Journal of Sports Medicine.