Menstrual Irregularity and Stress Fractures in Collegiate Female Distance Runners

Am J Sports Med. May-Jun 1988;16(3):209-16. doi: 10.1177/036354658801600302.


From 240 questionnaires, we investigated the prevalence of stress fractures in competitive collegiate female long distance runners and its relationship to menstrual history. The runners were divided into three groups according to their menstrual history: very irregular 69/240 (0 to 5 menses/year), irregular 51/240 (6 to 9 menses/year), and regular 120/240 (10 to 13 menses/year). Stress fractures occurred in 49% of the very irregular runners, 39% of the irregular runners, and 29% of the regular runners. The majority of the stress fractures occurred in the tibia. Runners who had never used oral contraceptives were over twice as likely to have had a stress fracture when compared with runners who had used oral contraceptives for more than 1 year. These data suggest that female distance runners who have a history of irregular or absent menses and who have never used oral contraceptives may be at an increased risk for developing a stress fracture. When amenorrheal runners were separated from the very irregular group, an alarming trend was noted in eating behavior disorders. Forty-seven percent of the amenorrheal group, 20% of the one to five menses/year group, 10% of the irregular group, and 7% of the regular group admitted to an eating behavior disorder.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Athletic Injuries / etiology*
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Menstruation Disturbances / complications*
  • Running*