What is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports, or RED-S?
When it was first identified in 1992, the Female Athlete Triad was then characterized by disordered eating, amenorrhea, and osteoporosis. The Female Athlete Triad is now characterized as RED-S, a range of interrelated conditions and complications that include low energy availability with or without disordered eating, menstrual dysfunction, and low bone mineral density, according to the 2007 ACSM’s position stand. Disordered eating can affect men’s hormones as well, which is why Female Athlete Triad is now called Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports, or RED-S.
What is the cause of this?
Generally what we see is that restrictive eating behaviors practiced by girls and women in sports or physical activities that emphasize leanness are of special concern. Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports can be a concern for sports with weight classes and for those who favor leaner athletes. Energy deficiency, an imbalance between the amount of energy consumed and the amount of energy expended during exercise, is the main cause.
What are some signs to look for in myself and in my teammates?
Common signs are excessive or over-exercising, avoiding meals, obsession with weight or body image, reoccuring injuries or stress fractures, and extreme fatigue or mood changes.
What are the long term health effects from this?
The most serious menstrual problem associated with Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports is amenorrhea, defined as no menstrual period for 3 months or more. Women who suffer from the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sports are at higher risk for low bone mass which leads to weakened bones and osteoporosis. This type of bone loss can cause an increased risk of fractures, including stress fractures. This condition can lead to disordered eating, or more serious eating problems, like anorexia or bulimia.
Is this preventable? What can I do to help?
When it is caught early, most medical conditions can be reversed with proper treatment. Nutritional treatment is the preferred first line of action and has been shown to be the most effective course of action. Please reach out to a trusted health care professional if you suspect that your teammate may be suffering from the Female Athlete Triad.