If you suffer from one or more of the following:
- Irregular menstrual cycles
- Increasted stress fractures
- Restrictive eating patterns
It is important that you visit your physician and inquire about testing and treatment.
If you are diagnosed with one or more components of the Triad, the first step you can take on your own is to improve your energy balance by eating frequent snacks, and including recovery time in your training schedule. The next step is to seek counseling from a physician, nutritionist or counselor. It is essential to get medical and professional help to prevent the adverse health effects of the Triad.
An important goal of Triad education is to improve the identification of not only athletes with full-blown Triad, but also of those who may be moving in an unhealthy direction across the three Triad continuums. Sports medicine professionals, parents, coaches, trainers, and the athletes themselves should be aware that even moderate restriction of food intake (with or without weight loss) or subtle menstrual cycle changes can be early indicators of the progression to serious Triad complications. A low threshold for intervention should be standard, and if an athlete exhibits one aspect of the condition, the other two should be investigated. This strategy might mean, for instance, a bone density test and nutrition counseling for an athlete who is experiencing irregular menstruation.
Obviously, the best times to catch potential Triad-related problems are during the pre-participation exam and yearly check-ups. Health care providers can review the standard protocol for the pre-participation exam that is available on the FemaleAthleteTriad website.
Female athletes should be asked about their eating habits and their menstrual regularity as part of basic screening, and people with a history of stress fractures may warrant special attention. These recommendations extend to all female athletes — not just those in sports that emphasize leanness.
It’s also important to remember that many health care providers are not familiar with Triad, and might be dismissive of its signs and symptoms (though considerable progress has been made in this area). It is therefore important to visit a physician that is familiar with and up to date on Triad.
Finally, it’s important to remember that not all Triad-related symptoms are caused by an energy deficit or dietary problem. Amenorrhea might also be caused by an anatomic defect, premature ovarian failure, a prolactin-secreting tumor, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), or pregnancy. Low bone mass, too, can have other causes. A physician’s evaluation and testing can determine whether another health problem is present. If not, an examination of the balance of calories taken in versus those expended throughout the day could point to energy deficiency.