When hearing the word eating disorder, most people associate this terrible disease with girls. However, studies have shown that boys are linked to this disease as well. In North Carolina in 1995 during a middle school study, 10% of girls and 4% of boys have been reported vomiting and using laxatives to lose weight. Most students that use these methods of “weight loss” are involved in sports. One sport that involves a lot of focus on weight restrictions is wrestling. We will be shedding some light on this world of wrestling and how research shows it could be one of the deadliest sports for eating disorders.
Students involved in this weight sensitive activity are especially prone to use methods to limit their food consumption based on 3 facts: improved appearance, better performance, and perceived competitive advantage. Since wrestling is a sport based on meeting certain weight requirements, it’s known for being lethal to someone on a normal healthy diet. In 1988, three collegiate wrestlers died from excessive weight loss.
Wrestlers have to be aware with monitoring their food consumption during the season because they have to “make weight” for their matches. In wrestling, athletes strive for success for competing in a lower weight class because then they believe that if you are at a lower weight and taller height you would have the upper hand competing. How crazy is that? A sport primarily based upon your weight? Athletes may not want to compete with someone in their weight class due to the fact that they could lose or they want to help the team fill an empty slot. Throughout the wrestling season, “making weight” is a cycle of shedding weight for long periods of time. Research has shown that athletes have lost or gained 5 to 10 lbs every week. Isn’t that unbelievable? Every week, people!
The requirement to be a minimum of 7% body fat in males and 12% body fat in females may increase the pressure to losing weight in males than females. Think about it, men are viewed to be the predominant sex and in the sports world, they have to look the part. To meet these body fat minimum requirements wrestlers have turned to purging, food limitation, or other methods. In an overall study, it was shown that 45% of wrestlers were at risk for eating disorders. With an obsessive outlook on the athlete’s weight cycles, I wouldn’t be surprised if this number increased in the future.
With vast amounts of weight loss, thermoregulatory capabilities and cardio output start decreasing. The body starts having dehydration through the athlete’s sweating and cooling system when they perform during hard activities. For cardio output, a threat can be found when decreased amount of output can produce a lot of strain on the heart with any effort. Heart rate and decreased stroke volume increases when cardiac output drops after reduced blood volume from dehydration. So, the weight loss from the wrestling season increases the risk of athletes not producing the healthy amount of hydration and cardio activity to regulate the body.
For younger wrestlers with 5 to 10 lbs per week with 5% to 10% dehydration levels, it poses a greater threat because they have a greater body surface area for every kilogram of weight. With all of this information, young wrestlers are at risk for eating disorders that result in unhealthy bodies and ultimately death. Please become aware of these severe risks when involved in sports and especially in wrestling. Ask help from a loved one or teacher immediately if you feel like you may be demonstrating any eating disorders or excessive amount of weight loss in a short amount of time.