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Symposium Speaker Series: Helping Young Athletes Return to Play During the Recovery Process

The 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Virtual Symposium on Eating Disorders brings together leaders in the field with the aim of advancing our collective understanding of what it means to provide best-practice eating disorder care to diverse populations. Our Symposium Speaker Series offers an introduction to the keynote presenters and topics that will lead the conversation at the virtual Symposium.

Anna Tanner, MD, FAAP, FSAHM, CEDS-S, is a board-certified pediatrician and Vice President of Medical Services at Veritas Collaborative. Dr. Tanner has spent more than two decades providing care for children, adolescents, and young adults with eating disorders and other complex diagnoses. She became involved in local advocacy and eating disorder education efforts after noticing an uptick in the number of families she saw affected by eating disorders. Dr. Tanner has been recognized as a “Top Doctor” by Atlanta magazine every year since 2013.

 

Page Love, MS, RDN, LD, CSSD, is a leading expert on sports nutrition and eating disorders and the founder of Nutrifit Sport Therapy Inc., headquartered in Atlanta. She consults with individuals, athletes, teams, and companies and frequently speaks about nutrition and fitness to promote education and awareness.

 

 

We recently sat down with Dr. Tanner and Page Love to discuss their upcoming presentation at the 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Virtual Symposium on Eating Disorders Helping Young Athletes Return to Play During the Recovery Process. We discussed the unique pressures young athletes experience, the way that pressure can manifest as extreme physical and nutritional pressures, and what it takes to help an athlete safely return to play.

Veritas Collaborative: Athletics and competition are generally viewed as healthy components of a well-rounded childhood and adolescence. Are young athletes at a higher risk of developing eating disorders?

Page: Young athletes who participate in “thinness demand sports,” such as cross country, dance, swimming, gymnastics, and wrestling are at increased risk for developing an eating disorder. Similarly, sports such as diving where more of the young child’s body is exposed with limited athletic clothing may increase the risk of developing an eating disorder. Eating disorders more commonly develop in these young athletes as they are more prone to compare bodies and are unfortunately subject to a societal norm for body types in these sports.

Veritas Collaborative: What are the warning signs that a young athlete has veered into disordered eating behaviors?

Dr. Tanner: There can be several warning signs that a young athlete has developed disordered eating behaviors. These red flags include obsessive behaviors around food or exercise, changes in weight or growth, abnormal or missed periods in young women, and fractures or other bone problems. To help address disordered eating in young athletes, we now train providers to look for Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). In RED-S, we see the same signs of energy insufficiency that we may see in the restrictive eating disorders, such as low bone mass density, amenorrhea (or low testosterone), and abnormal vascular function (low vital signs).

Veritas Collaborative: What are the unique medical risks that eating disorders present for young athletes?

Dr. Tanner: It’s important to remember that young athletes are still growing and developing. With the extra physical demands of sports, young athletes may run a higher risk of having insufficient energy which can be detrimental for growth and development during such a vital time.

Veritas Collaborative: Can you talk about the roles of parents (as well as family and other loved ones), coaches, and healthcare providers in helping young athletes recover from eating disorders?

Page: As a sports dietitian, I coach parents to model a fueling-based approach for their young athletes. I also suggest that parents provide the appropriate food tools, and if needed, pre-plate the appropriate portions for their child if their child is underserving or currently struggling with an eating disorder.

Veritas Collaborative: What are some best practices for knowing when young athletes can return to their sport after an eating disorder diagnosis? What practices are recommended in order to sustain recovery after a return to sport?

Dr. Tanner: Typically, a return to sport is a gradual and ongoing progress. Patients must be medically stable and remain so. More than that, thoughts around exercise compulsion, body image, and food fears must be explored. Athletes must be able to give their body what it needs to be healthy and compete, but when eating disorder thoughts are there, it becomes difficult to advance activity without working through these issues.

Veritas Collaborative: What is the one takeaway you hope attendees leave your presentation knowing?

Dr. Tanner: Athletes are not immune to eating disorders. The same issues we look for in any patient with eating concerns can also be present in an athlete.


The 9th Annual Veritas Collaborative Virtual Symposium on Eating Disorders is your path to advanced knowledge of best-practice care for diverse populations and up to 26.0 continuing education credits. Register today to help us change the conversation, and ultimately, change the field of eating disorder treatment for the better—and for everyone. Use code VERITAS2020 for 20% off the Three-Day Symposium Package.