The Relationship between Weight Cutting and the Female Athlete Triad in Combat Sport Athletes

Sarah Thomas, Adam M. Gonzalez, Jamie J. Ghigiarelli


Background: Females combat sport athletes are likely to partake in rapid weight reduction strategies prior to competitions. Objective: The purpose of this study was to investigate the relationship between weight cutting habits of female combat sport athletes and the risk of developing the female athlete triad. Methods: 102 female combat sport athletes (amateur=40; professional=62; 28.8±4.5y), competing in boxing (n=30), kickboxing (n=12), and mixed martial arts (n=60), completed two questionnaires. An adapted version of the Rapid Weight Loss Questionnaire (RWLQ) was used to determine the severity of athletes’ weight cutting behaviors, and the Low Energy Availability in Females Questionnaire (LEAF-Q) was used to determine female athlete triad risk. Data was analyzed to determine correlations between LEAF-Q and RWLQ scores along with weight cutting behaviors. Scores were also compared between competition level and combat sports. Results: The results of this study showed that 38% of female combat sport athletes were at risk of developing the female athlete triad. Significant correlation between RWLQ and LEAF-Q scores (p=0.013; r=0.244, r2=0.060) were noted. A significant difference (p=0.006) between the RWLQ scores of amateurs and professionals was also noted, with professionals engaging in more severe weight cutting behavior. Mixed martial artists reported the highest RWLQ and LEAF-Q scores, which were significantly greater than boxers. No other correlations between LEAF-Q and weight cutting behaviors were noted. Conclusion: Despite a small effect size (r²=0.060), the findings of this study demonstrate that more severe weight cutting behaviors may increase the female athlete triad risk among female combat sport athletes.


Martial Arts, Boxing, Kickboxing, Female Athlete Triad Syndrome, Weight Loss

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