Eating disorders can lead to death. The prevalence of subclinical and eating disorders is high among female athletes, and the prevalence of eating disorders is higher among female athletes than nonathletes. Athletes competing in sports where leanness or a specific bodyweight is considered important are more prone to develop eating disorders than athletes competing in sports where these factors are considered less important. It appears necessary to examine true eating disorders, the subclinical disorders and the range of behaviours and attitudes associated with eating disturbances in athletes, to learn how these clinical and subclinical disorders are related. Because of methodological weaknesses in the existing studies, including deficient description of the populations studied and the methods of data collection, the best instrument or interview method is not known. Therefore, more research on athletes and eating disorders is needed. Suggestions of the possible sport specific risk factors associated with the development of eating disorders in athletes exist, but large scale longitudinal studies are needed to learn more about risk factors and the aetiology of eating disorders in athletes at different competitive levels and within different sports. Further studies are required on the short and long term effects of eating disorders on athletes' health and athletic performance.