Jan 29, 2015
The Right Monitoring Methods

Presenter Toni M. Torres-McGehee, PhD, ATC, of the University of South Carolina, spoke on an important topic in her presentation, Monitoring Weight and Body Composition for the Adolescent and Collegiate Athlete: An Examination of Clinical Methods. Here is her recap of the presentation.

Like their non-athlete peers, many high school and college-aged student-athletes often engage in quick fixes, crash diets, or unhealthy eating behaviors to lose or gain weight to enhance performance. The combination of these weight loss or gain objectives can lead to unhealthy eating behaviors, excessive exercise, or other concerns such as the Female Athlete Triad.

There are a variety of methods for assessing and monitoring weight and body composition in the clinical setting. Therefore, the workshop at the NATA discussed practical clinical methods for assessing and monitoring weight and body composition (e.g., BMI, skin fold testing, anthropometric measures, target weight) versus more reliable laboratory methods (e.g., DEXA, Bod Bod, hydrostatic weighing) in both the collegiate and high school settings. In order to help athletes be successful and enhance performance, it is critical to have a clear understanding of the sport and position.

It was recommended that institutions develop a “Medically Supervised Weight Policy” to monitor student-athletes. This policy integrates a safe recommendations and monitoring of body weight and body composition for athletes. In addition, this policy takes into account recommendations outlined in the current NCAA Sports Medicine Handbook. Below are major points that should be outlined in the policy:

-Know “why” you are conducting the measurements. Do you need the measurements for medical reasons? To enhance performance? To enhance appearance? In a medically supervised weight policy, measurements should only be taken for medical purposes and to make sure that athletes maintain a weight that will not be detrimental to their health.

-Who is going to conduct the physical measurements (e.g., height, weight, body fat percentage)? It is recommended that a member from the sports medicine team is selected to conduct measurements (e.g. athletic trainer or dietitian). Coach should never be allowed to conduct or see actual measurements.

-How many times a year should measurements be conducted? It is recommended that athletes have body composition and weight assessments conducted at least two to three times a year. The timing of the year will be determined by the sports medicine staff. Additional measurements should only be conducted if the athlete’s health is at risk (e.g., serious illness, or a major injury that causes the athlete to be out of their sport for long periods of time).

-Determine the cutoff recommendations or guidelines for athletes who are underweight or overweight. The policy should state that all athletes must stay within normal range for weight/body composition. It also assures that student athletes’ normal range will be based off of healthy recommendations that focused on two specific areas: Specific to sport type and specific to each individuals (e.g., frame size, age, gender, height, weight).

-Develop referral and treatment guidelines for those athletes who are consistently under- or overweight. Any athlete that is found to be consistently outside of the team normal range will have a second measurement by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DEXA scan). Additionally, they will be referred to counseling with the dietitian or sport psychologist and/or a follow-up with the team physician.

For more specific information about a “Medically Supervised Weight Policy” please feel free to contact me at: [email protected].

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