Background Eating disorders are prevalent in athletics and impact on health and performance. Knowledge of how the sports environment contributes to risk can be translated into effective prevention and harm reduction.
Objectives To ensure that the workforce (including volunteers) of British Athletics can: 1) Practice in a manner that minimizes the eating disorder risk, 2) Recognise the early warning signs of disordered eating, 3) Support and direct athletes to appropriate help.
Design The Welfare Department of British Athletics consulted with eating disorders experts to develop an education package and describe a referral pathway.
Setting British Athletics–the organisation responsible for the sport's governance, funding and development throughout the United Kingdom.
Participants 50 leaders in medical, coaching and support staff with a cascade mechanism for dissemination to all staff and athletes.
Interventions A seminar for all key personnel (covering the extent of the problem, prevention, early detection and access to treatment), supplemented by educational articles in athletics press, training videos uploaded to coach education website (ucoach.com) and resource pack for all staff.
Main outcome measurements 50 key personnel attended the seminar including the Chief Medical Officer (CMO). Referral pathways are now clear and managed by British Athletics. The CMO can direct immediate further action for funded athletes. All other athletes are signposted to appropriate help by the Welfare Department.
Results There was a 100% approval rating for the resource pack. 96% reported improved understanding of the problem, 92% were confident with the referral pathways and 93% reported increased awareness of sources of support. 800 resource packs distributed and 1500 visits to ucoach.com.
Conclusions Preventive measures for eating disorders are important and can be widely disseminated within national sports organisations. Prompt action minimises harm but requires clear pathways to assessment and further treatment.
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