Low Energy Availability in Female Rugby 7's Players: A feasibility Pilot Study
Background: Low energy availability (LEA) is a term used to describe a state of insufficient energy remaining following exercise to maintain normal physiological functioning. If left untreated, LEA can lead to severe impairment of an individual’s health and athletic performance. LEA has been described in various athletic populations, however the prevalence amongst elite New Zealand female athletes is unknown. There is even less information regarding the knowledge of athletes about LEA and its symptoms. Detecting those at risk at an early stage, alongside an understanding of athlete knowledge may aid in the prevention, treatment and management of LEA and it’s further manifestations.Objective: The current study aimed to describe the number of elite New Zealand female rugby 7s athletes at risk of developing LEA, and their knowledge of the potential adverse effects of LEA.Design: A total of 23 contracted elite female rugby players were recruited on the first day of a training camp. To participate in the study, players had to be female, not be currently pregnant and/or injured, and had to be over the age of 16 by the recruitment day. Participants completed 5-day electronic diet records with the use of a smartphone application (MealLogger ©), and also completed a questionnaire containing the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAF) and questions about LEA and its health and performance implications. Scores of 8 or above were deemed as being at risk of developing LEA.Results: Approximately 52.2% of participants were classified as at risk of LEA. Those at risk had a lower median energy intake of (28.7 kcal.kg-1.bw.d-1) compared to those not at risk (31.2 kcal.kg-1.bw.d-1). The mean knowledge score for those not at risk and those at risk was 5.5 and 4.9 respectively out of a potential score of 10, with a mean score for all participants of 5.2 Interestingly, only 27.3% of those not at risk and 8.3% of those at risk had previously heard of Low Energy Availability. Further, 45.5% of those not at risk and 8.3% of those at risk, agreed that skipping periods make your bones weak.Conclusion: The current study has provided valuable information about the knowledge of elite athletes and risk of LEA. It suggests that knowledge is low amongst elite athletes and that those who are at risk of LEA have poorer knowledge than those not at risk. This area requires further investigation as it is possible that education of athletes regarding LEA and its effects may reduce the number of athletes putting their health at risk due to LEA.
Advisor: Black, Katherine
Degree Name: Master of Dietetics
Degree Discipline: Human Nutrition
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: New Zealand; LowEnergyAvailability; Rugby; 7'sRugby; Energy; Sports; SportsNutrition
Research Type: Thesis