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A Tale of Two Runners: A Case Report of Athletes’ Experiences with Eating Disorders in College

Published:December 20, 2016DOI:


      Athletes are at higher risk than the general population for eating disorders, and risk is heightened for athletes in thin-build sports, including track. Collegiate athletes are particularly vulnerable to disordered eating when the transition from home to the college environment adds to the stress of performance pressures and the high demands of the sport environment. Male and female athletes who develop eating disorders share some common characteristics, yet their experiences can be quite different, in part as a consequence of their sex and how eating disorders develop, and are recognized, acknowledged, and treated, within the culture of sports. This case report describes the experiences of two track athletes, one male and one female, who were recruited to the same Division 1 collegiate track program. Both were elite athletes, freshmen in the same year, experiencing the same urban college environment, and experiencing an eating disorder characterized by restrictive eating, significant weight loss, injury, and compromised performance in sport. Both received treatment from a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Both athletes achieved weight restoration, recovery from the disorder, and success in their sport. In spite of the similarities, striking differences were apparent in clinical presentation, predisposing features, onset of symptoms, entry points to treatment, interventions received, and clinical courses through treatment that depict sex differences in how eating disorders present in athletes and are addressed in the sport environment. Findings endorse the need for research and inform prevention strategies, risk assessment, and intervention approaches for nutrition and sports medicine professionals and collegiate athletic departments.


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      P. A. Quatromoni is an associate professor and chair of the Department of Health Sciences, Boston University, Boston, MA.