The Female Athlete Triad is a syndrome of three interrelated conditions that exist on a continuum of severity, including:
1. Energy Deficiency with or without Disordered Eating
2. Menstrual Disturbances/Amenorrhea
3. Bone Loss/Osteoporosis
Energy Deficiency with or without Disordered Eating
Energy deficiency is the main cause of the Triad. An energy deficiency is an imbalance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended during exercise. The primary cause of the Female Athlete Triad is energy deficiency. Often, this can involve a conscious restriction of food intake, problems with body image and a high drive for thinness. Sometimes, these conditions can lead to disordered eating, or more serious eating problems, like anorexia or bulimia.
Menstrual Disturbances & Amenorrhea
The most serious menstrual problem associated with the Triad is amenorrhea, defined as no menstrual period for 3 months or more. However, athletes who have irregular menstrual cycles are also susceptible to the effects of the Triad.
Bone Loss & Osteoporosis
Women with the Triad are at higher risk for low bone mass leading to weakened bones, called osteoporosis in its severe form. This type of bone loss can cause an increased risk of fractures, including stress fractures.