J. Stephens, A.F. Brown

University of Idaho, Moscow, ID

Adolescentaesthetic athletes, such as gymnasts and dancers, are partly evaluated based on physique and become aware of this emphasis at a young age often beginning as early as 3 years old. Therefore, it is common to observe unhealthy behaviors in an attempt to achieve this physique placing young athletes at risk for improper growth, injury and psychological stress. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to assess differences between adolescent gymnasts and dancers’ body image perception, body composition and dietary intake. METHODS: Gymnasts (n=18; age 11±2 yr) and dancers (n=13; age 10±4 yr) visited the Human Performance Laboratory with a parent to complete questionnaires on health history, body image perception and dietary intake (24-hr food recall). Body composition was assessed using dual energy x-ray absorptiometery (Hologic Horizon) to obtain measures of bone mineral density (BMD) and lean mass (LM). RESULTS: The majority of gymnasts and dancers (89%, 100% respectively; p=0.16) “felt pretty” and were “happy with the way their body looked”. Although no differences were observed between groups, gymnasts and dancers were of healthy weight (G: 40.2±13.8 kg, D: 36.2±15.2 kg)and BMD (G: 0.8±0.2 g/cm2, D: 0.7±0.2 g/cm2). However, 22% of gymnasts and 15% of dancers were found to be either at risk for low BMD or have low BMD for chronological age. Gymnasts approached a significantly higher rate of stress fractures or fractures when compared to dancers (p=0.06).Gymnasts and dancers did not differ in total calories (G: 2,086±547 kcal, D: 1862±900 kcal; p=0.40), protein (G: 2.2±0.8 g/kg/d, D: 2.2±1.0 g/kg/d; p=0.84), carbohydrate (G: 7.3±3.8 g/kg/d, D: 7.5±3.4 g/kg/d; p=0.90), or calcium (G: 1,002±432 mg/d, D: 830±455 mg/d; p=0.29). CONCLUSION: While the majority of adolescent aesthetic athletes reported high body image perception, dietary intake could be optimized as calcium intake fell below the recommended daily value (1000mg/d). Although not significantly different between groups, it is physiologically important to recognize that gymnasts reported more skeletal injuries and were at higher risk for low BMD. This indicates the need for further dietary and body composition assessment of adolescent aesthetic athletes to prevent overall health and performance decrements during critical growth stages.

Supported by University of Idaho Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship

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