Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes

PREVALENCE OF EATING DISORDERS

their body composition and shape (Ridgeway &
Tylka, 2005). Although athletes experience rel-
atively low levels of clinical disorders (e.g.,
BN), their rates of subclinical disorders and
pathogenic eating and weight control behaviors
are high. These results suggest that the sport
environment indeed may be a risk factor, and
that future research will need to examine not
only clinical and subclinical concerns but also
specific behaviors (e.g., vomiting) that, in and
of themselves, may compromise the athletes'
health.
Unfortunately, few studies have been com-
pleted regarding the prevalence of eating disor-
ders among male athletes, and Petrie and Green-
leaf (2007) have pointed out that those have
been limited by methodological problems, in-
cluding the use of single-source samples (e.g.,
male collegiate athletes drawn from one univer-
sity, such as found in the Sanford-Martens et al.,
2005, study) and the use of questionnaires to
determine prevalence that have no established
psychometric properties (e.g., Johnson et al.,
1999). In addition, even fewer studies have
identified prevalence rates of specific patho-
genic weight control behaviors, such as vomit-
ing or taking laxatives. Given the low incidence
of diagnosable disorders among male athletes, it
is necessary to explore the extent to which they
are engaging in specific behaviors that, on their
own, may be deleterious to their health and may
increase their risk of later developing a full-
blown eating disorder.
Given the current state of eating disorder
prevalence research among male athletes, the
purpose of this study was threefold. First, using
a psychometrically reliable and valid measure,
we sought to determine the prevalence of both
eating disorders and subclinical disordered be-
haviors among a large and diverse sample of
athletes that was drawn from multiple locations.
Second, we examined the relation of eating dis-
order classification (e.g., clinical, asymptom-
atic) to multiple demographic variables, such as
age, sport type, and race/ethnicity. We wanted
to test whether the athletes' level of disordered
eating varied in relation to these and other de-
mographics and thus determine whether certain
athletes may be more at risk than others (e.g.,
younger vs. older athletes). Third, we wanted to
determine the prevalence of specific pathogenic
weight control behaviors (e.g., vomiting, exer-
cising) and binge eating (frequency and dura-

tion). In considering specific behaviors, we in-
cluded not only bingeing and traditional forms
of purging that are associated with eating dis-
orders, but also exercise frequency because of
its relation to the pursuit of the lean and mus-
cular physique among men.
Method
Participants
Two hundred three male collegiate athletes
from three different National Collegiate Ath-
letic Association (NCAA) Division I institu-
tions located in the Midwest, Southwest, and
Mountain regions of the United States partici-
pated. Mean age was 20.29 years (SD = 1.64).
Regarding race/ethnicity, 58.1% were Cauca-
sian, 1.5% African American, 30.5% Hispanic/
Mexican American, and 7.4% Asian American/
Pacific Islander; 2.5% indicated "Other." In
terms of year in school, 27.6% were fresh-
men, 24.6% sophomores, 28.1% juniors,
and 14.8% seniors; 4.9% were in their fifth year.
The men participated in football (n 102),
basketball (n = 8), cheerleading (n = 5), cross-
country (n = 5), diving (n = 2), fencing (n
2), golf (n = 4), ice hockey (n = 4), lacrosse
(n = 6), swimming (n = 13), track and field
(n = 21), volleyball (n 1), alpine skiing (n
2), baseball (n = 25), wrestling (n = 2), and
soccer (n 1). They were involved in their
sports an average of 1.93 years (SD = 1.16) at
the college level and 8.92 years (SD = 5.20)
during their lifetimes. The majority of the par-
ticipants were on athletic scholarships (63.3%)
and were starters on their teams (56.7%).
The athletes' current body mass index
(BMI) was 27.51 kg/m2 (SD = 5.25;
range 16.26-46.29). In terms of weight
categories set by the Centers for Disease Con-
trol and Prevention (CDC, n.d.a), 1.5% (n
3) of the athletes would be classified as un-
derweight (BMI < 18.5), 32.5% (n = 66) as
normal weight (BMI = 18.5-24.9), 42.8%
(n = 87) as overweight, and 23.2% (n = 47)
as obese. Of those who were in the over-
weight or obese groups, 67% were football
players. Over half (60.6%) of the athletes re-
ported being satisfied with their current weight;
of those who were not satisfied, 65.0% said they
were underweight. The majority of the men said
that their weight did not fluctuate when they

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Petrie, Trent A.; Greenleaf, Christy; Reel, Justine J. & Carter, Jennifer. Prevalence of Eating Disorders and Disordered Eating Behaviors Among Male Collegiate Athletes. [Washington, D.C.]. UNT Digital Library. http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc31092/. Accessed April 24, 2014.