Amenorrhea in the Female Athlete: What to Do and When to Worry

Pediatr Ann. 2016 Mar;45(3):e97-e102. doi: 10.3928/00904481-20160210-03.


Functional hypothalamic amenorrhea is a diagnosis of exclusion that is common in female athletes, particularly those participating in aesthetic sports (ballet, other dance genres, figure skating, and gymnastics) and endurance sports (cross-country running). Although common, it should be considered abnormal even in the high-level elite athlete. Amenorrhea in combination with low energy availability and low bone density is labeled "the Female Athlete Triad." Studies have demonstrated numerous long-term consequences of athletes suffering from all or a portion of this triad, including increased rate of musculoskeletal injuries, stress fractures, abnormal lipid profiles, endothelial dysfunction, potential irreversible bone loss, depression, anxiety, low self- esteem, and increased mortality. This article provides the clinician with the tools to evaluate an athlete with secondary amenorrhea, reviews the recommended treatment options for affected athletes, and discusses when to return to the activity in an effort to facilitate "healthy" participation.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Amenorrhea / diagnosis
  • Amenorrhea / etiology*
  • Amenorrhea / psychology
  • Amenorrhea / therapy
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome* / diagnosis
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome* / etiology
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome* / psychology
  • Female Athlete Triad Syndrome* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Return to Sport
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Sports / psychology