Development and validation of a screening tool to identify eating disorders in female athletes

J Am Diet Assoc. 2001 Aug;101(8):886-92; quiz 893-4. doi: 10.1016/S0002-8223(01)00218-8.


Objective: To develop and validate a screening tool to identify eating pathology in women athletes.

Design: Three cross-sectional subject groups were established: college women athletes diagnosed with eating disorders; college women athletes without eating pathology; college women who did not participate in athletics but were diagnosed with an eating disorder. The Female Athlete Screening Tool (FAST), and 3 valid psychometric measures were administered to subjects in all groups. Internal reliability, discriminant and concurrent validity were established.

Subjects/settings: Women college students between the ages of 18 and 23 years (n=41) from the University of Connecticut and St Joseph College were recruited. The athletes were screened for eating disorders by a sports medicine team.

Statistical analysis: Cronbach's alpha, one-way analysis of variance, and correlation analyses.

Results: Reliability analysis indicated a high internal consistency of the FAST (Cronbach's alpha = 0.87). Athletes with eating disorders scored significantly higher on the FAST as compared with athletes without eating pathology and nonathletes with eating disorders (P<.001), which demonstrated discriminant validity. Correlation analyses showed that the FAST was strongly correlated to the Eating Disorder Examination-Questionnaire (0.60, P<.05) and Eating Disorder Inventory (0.89, P<.001).

Applications/conclusions: Early detection of eating disorders can help prevent the onset or severity of a clinical eating disorder. By using the screening tool that has been validated for use in women athletes, dietetic professionals can quickly identify those athletes who need assistance with their aberrant eating habits.

Publication types

  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anthropometry
  • Body Image
  • Body Weight
  • Connecticut
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Mass Screening / methods*
  • Personality Inventory
  • Psychometrics*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Sports*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires