The female athlete triad

Sports Health. 2012 Jul;4(4):302-11. doi: 10.1177/1941738112439685.


Context: The female athlete triad (the triad) is an interrelationship of menstrual dysfunction, low energy availability (with or without an eating disorder), and decreased bone mineral density; it is relatively common among young women participating in sports. Diagnosis and treatment of this potentially serious condition is complicated and often requires an interdisciplinary team.

Evidence acquisition: Articles from 1981 to present found on PubMed were selected for review of major components of the female athlete triad as well as strategies for diagnosis and treatment of the conditions.

Results: The main goal in treatment of young female athletes with the triad is a natural return of menses as well as enhancement of bone mineral density. While no specific drug intervention has been shown to consistently improve bone mineral density in this patient population, maximizing energy availability and optimizing vitamin D and calcium intake are recommended.

Conclusions: Treatment requires a multidisciplinary approach involving health care professionals as well as coaches and family members. Prevention of this condition is important to minimize complications of the female athlete triad.