Study objective: The aims of this study are to determine among female high school track athletes: (1) knowledge of the association between menstrual irregularity and bone health; (2) attitudes toward amenorrhea, specifically if amenorrhea is seen as a sign of athletic success; (3) the association between knowledge and attitudes based on athlete menstrual status.
Design: Cross-sectional survey.
Setting: Five public high schools in Texas.
Participants: 103 female high school track athletes ages 14-18 years.
Intervention: Participants completed a questionnaire that addressed menstrual history, details of track participation, knowledge of bone mineral density (BMD)/ menstrual status connection, and attitudes about the desirability of oligo/amenorrhea.
Outcome measures: Frequencies of attitude and knowledge replies, summative knowledge score, and correlations between attitudes, knowledge, and menstrual status.
Results: Sixteen subjects (16.7%) met criteria for amenorrhea, 16 for oligomenorrhea (16.7%). Median summative knowledge score was one of six. Menstrual irregularity was associated with lower knowledge (P = 0.035). Incorrect answers about consequences of bone loss and the link to menstrual irregularity were given by ≥90% of respondents. Lower knowledge was associated with a greater number of "don't know" replies to attitude questions (P = 0.002). Among more knowledgeable participants endorsing opinions, menstrual irregularity was not seen as a sign of athletic success.
Conclusions: The prevalence of irregular menses is high among adolescent track athletes and a larger-scale inquiry to clarify adolescent athletes' knowledge of and attitudes about the link between menstrual patterns and BMD is indicated. Education may provide one key to improved health behavior among this at-risk population.
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