Eating disorders in the male athlete

Sports Med. 2006;36(1):1-6. doi: 10.2165/00007256-200636010-00001.


Eating disorders do occur in male athletes. They are less prominent than in female athletes, and therefore in danger of being missed. The high-risk sports fall into the same categories as with females: aesthetic sports, sports in which low body fat is advantageous, such as cross-country and marathon running, and sports in which there is a need to "make weight", including wrestling and horse racing. Athletic involvement may foster the development of an eating disorder. Some male athletes, in their preoccupation with body image, will abuse anabolic steroids. While sports participation may contribute to the aetiology of an eating disorder, the converse is also true. Exercise may be used as therapy for some cases of eating disorder. In order to adequately treat eating disorders in the male athlete, it is first essential to identify cases. Psychoeducation of athletes, their families, coaches and trainers is an important first step. Counselling an athlete to pursue a sport appropriate to his body type, or to leave his sport behind altogether (an unpopular recommendation from a coach's perspective) can be important to treatment. Treatment of co-morbid psychiatric conditions is essential. Treatment can be structured using a biopsychosocial approach, and all appropriate modalities of therapy, including individual, family and group, as well as psychopharmacotherapy, where appropriate, should be applied.

MeSH terms

  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / etiology
  • Feeding and Eating Disorders* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Sports*
  • United States