Female fitness competitions are an emerging sport that continues to grow in popularity.
Athletes are graded on their physique, specifically their muscle mass, in hopes to obtain a professional status and acquire endorsements in the sport. Preparation involves a strict diet and exercise regimen, potentially predisposing athletes to various injuries, including the female athlete triad. In a recent article published by Rhode Island Medical Journal, Dr. Waryasz et al. evaluated the rate of injuries in females competing in fitness modeling to identify potential risk factors associated with injuries in order for health professionals and coaches to better counsel and treat this unique athletic population.
The status of injury rates among female fitness competitors was determined through an anonymous survey and used to characterize the injuries suffered during active participation while training for competition. Injuries were grouped in to soft tissue injury, stress fracture or bone fracture. The survey also asked for the patients’ demographics, current weight, pre-weight cutting weight, dietary habits, menstrual cycle status and eating disorder history. Previously, there had been no studies in literature on female athletes training and participating in fitness competitions.
35 female athletes at a USA Northeast Regional Competition were surveyed. The survey revealed over-all injury rates were low, but two risk factors were associated with increased risk of injury: history of an eating disorder or current eating disorder and age greater than 35. Due to the nature of the study, it is unknown if the injuries were a result of overuse or traumatic events. There was no statistically significant difference with absent menstrual cycles relating to injury rates. There was a significant decrease in average pre-weight cutting weight and competition weight. Further studies should investigate how the weight was lost for competition and how it was gained back after competition to see if there is risk for developing an eating disorder.
Female fitness competitions are an up and coming sport lacking in safety guidelines. Coaches and healthcare professionals should be aware of the unique training and nutrition this sport entails in order to improve patient outcomes. Dr. Waryasz et al. recommend further studies investigating competition preparation characteristics, long-term safety and injury risk factors be done to improve practices. This study is a starting point in understanding training patterns, diet and physique characteristic among this special population of female athletes.