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athletic trainers association
louisiana state university
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body composition
New Guidelines For Safe Weight Loss For Athletes
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New Guidelines for Safe Weight Loss for Athletes

Athletes of every level and sport are under constant pressure from their coaches to meet and maintain their weight. That pressure can be so substantial that many will succumb to less than healthy practices to meet their magic number. Certain types of sports, especially those that have weight classes like wrestling and boxing can increase this pressure, especially right before a big competition. Some of these athletes will choose drastic and potentially dangerous weight management practices and may even do so with their coach’s knowledge and direct endorsement.

Ashleigh Clare-Kearney is a NCAA champion gymnast in two events and was a NCAA Woman of the Year finalist during her time at Louisiana State University and knows about this incredible pressure to conform to a certain body type. She was taller and heavier than the average gymnast when she started competing and people warned her that she would never make it to the elite level. The average gymnast is around 110 pounds while Ashleigh weighed 145 pounds. Once she started college, she did drop some weight, but did so with the help of better nutrition and sensible eating guidelines. Other athletes do not do things so healthfully.

The National Athletic Trainers Association issued its new set of guidelines for athletes and weight loss in response to some of the most dangerous types of weight loss efforts seen by the young sports stars including intentional dehydration and extreme calorie restrictions. The new guidelines include checking body composition to measure the ratio of lean muscle to fat. The guidelines also suggest not allowing the athlete to lose more than a pound and a half per week. Weight loss should also be done with the supervision of weight loss experts.

The National Federation of High School Association has also adopted a number of rules to address some of the more dangerous practices among the student athletes. Those rules include guidelines for hydration and an established minimum body fat for all athletes. In 2006, the Association added a urine test specifically designed to detect signs of dehydration in athletes before a competition. In some cases, athletes will deny themselves water and avoid certain foods as well as exercising in heavy clothes to increase sweating. There is a long held belief that some athletes may also engage in even more disturbing practices to make weight, including the rumored practice of having blood removed before weight in and then reinjected into the body afterward.

Rapid weight loss decreases athletic performance but may also have a long term effect on overall health as well. The weight may come off but may damage the metabolism, hormone production, the endocrine system and the thyroid function as well. The rapid weight loss may also lower the immune system’s function as well. Extreme calorie restriction and intentional dehydration may also play a role in the increased number of young people who are dying from a heart condition called Long QT syndrome.


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