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Identifying latent classes of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) consequences in a sample of collegiate female cross country runners

Abstract

Objective The purpose of this study was to identify patterns of clustering of the 10 health consequences identified in the Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) framework among collegiate female Cross-Country runners. We also assessed risk characteristics associated with each cluster.

Methods This randomly sampled population included 211 current National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA) Division I (DI) female cross country runners who completed a quantitative survey. We used latent class analysis (LCA) to group athletes into mutually exclusive classes based on shared response patterns of RED-S consequences. We computed descriptive statistics to identify demographics, personal characteristics, disordered eating and emotional health characteristics associated with each class.

Results The average age of the sample was 21 years with mean body mass index 20.4 kg/m2. The LCA identified three unique classes of potential RED-S presentations: (1) low probability of RED-S consequences; (2) complex physical and psychological concerns with a higher burden of cardiovascular concern and (3) very high probability of anxiety with high burden of menstrual disturbance, bone injury and gastrointestinal concern. All classes were characterised by high levels of menstrual disturbance and distinguished by the number and burden of other potential RED-S consequences and in reported abuse history, emotional regulation and perfectionism.

Conclusion This study identified a high burden of menstrual disturbance in NCAA D1 cross country runners, and three unique presentations of RED-S consequences. Future research is warranted to better understand how early prevention and intervention strategies may mitigate RED-S consequences in distance runners.

  • female athlete triad syndrome
  • female
  • running
  • physiology

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. Data are available upon reasonable request to the first author (tlcars@umich.edu).

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