Menstrual Dysfunction and Body Satisfaction in Young Athletes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Suvi Ravi
Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences
University of Jyväskylä
Jyväskylä, Finland

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: The results of studies comparing the prevalence of menstrual dysfunction in athletes and non-athletes have been inconsistent. Menstrual dysfunction can have many different causes but one of the most common in athletes is low energy availability (i.e., inadequate energy intake relative to energy expenditure). Disordered eating/eating disorder as a result of e.g. body weight dissatisfaction, which is the discrepancy between actual and desired weight, can be a risk factor for inadequate energy intake and thus could play a role in menstrual dysfunction.

We studied a cohort of athletes and non-athletes, in adolescence (14-16 years) and subsequently in young adulthood (18-20 years) to determine the prevalence of menstrual dysfunction and body weight dissatisfaction. Menstrual dysfunction in our study was defined as primary amenorrhea, which is the absence of menses by the age of 15, prolonged menstrual cycle (>35 days), or secondary amenorrhea i.e., absence of menses for at least three consecutive months. 

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: The findings of the study showed that in adolescence, 18% of both athletes and non-athletes reported menstrual dysfunction. Primary amenorrhea was reported in 8% of the athletes reported in contrast to 0% in the non-athletes group. In young adulthood, the prevalence of menstrual dysfunction was 39% and 6% in the athlete and non-athlete groups, respectively.

Furthermore, the results showed that the athletes were more satisfied with their weight and had less desire to lose weight than the non-athletes. However, in both age groups about 20% of the athletes and about 40% of the non-athletes reported body weight dissatisfaction. 

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report? 

Response: Menstrual dysfunction is common in young athletes. People working with athletes (coaches, physicians etc.) should be aware of this issue in order to identify individuals with menstrual dysfunction at the earliest possible phase and to prevent future problems in health and performance.

Additionally, attention should be paid to young people with body weight dissatisfaction as this might result in eating disorder/disordered eating which could result in further health problems for the athlete.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Future research should investigate if there are characteristics that predict menstrual dysfunction. In our study, we found that the only variable predicting menstrual dysfunction in young adulthood was menstrual dysfunction in adolescence. Future studies with larger samples and different study populations are needed to confirm this result.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add? 

Response: Menstrual dysfunction is not normal even in athletes and should be taken seriously as they can result in health problems throughout the life span.

There are no conflicts of interest relevant to this article.


Ravi, S, Waller, B, Valtonen, M, et al. Menstrual dysfunction and body weight dissatisfaction among Finnish young athletes and non‐athletes. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2020; 00: 1– 13. https://doi.org/10.1111/sms.13838


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Last Updated on October 30, 2020 by Marie Benz MD FAAD