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An IOC consensus group has recently introduced a new umbrella term, that is, ‘Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport’ (RED-S) to describe the physiological and pathophysiological effects of energy deficiency in male and female athletes.1 The authors assert that “new terminology is required to more accurately describe the clinical syndrome originally known as the Female Athlete Triad” that is a “more comprehensive, broader term for the overall syndrome, which includes what has so far been called the ‘Female Athlete Triad’.”1 This new terminology (RED-S) is insufficiently supported by scientific research to warrant adoption at this time. The Female Athlete Triad has more than 30 years of published evidence to support its existence in the scientific literature with strong evidence for its clinical sequelae and should remain a focus of scientific inquiry and translation.2–6 Moreover, several major concerns and errors with the IOC consensus statement should give researchers and practitioners great pause before adopting the IOC's new terminology, its theoretical construct and its proposed recommendations for screening and return to play.
As stated by the IOC authors, the science of energy deficiency in the male athlete and in other groups is still in its ‘infancy’.1 In contrast, research on the Triad has been published since the early 1990s4 and, in fact, even earlier. Reports of menstrual and other problems in athletes were becoming prevalent in the literature as early as the 1960s, but particularly in the 1970s and 1980s.7–10 The first symposium related to the topic at the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) Annual Meeting was organised by Barbara Drinkwater in 1981 and was entitled ‘Menstrual Irregularities in Female Athletes’. The term ‘Female Athlete Triad’ was introduced at a workshop in 1992.4 The first position stand from the ACSM was published in 1997,2 and …
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