A new study has said that ballerinas face the same health risks as young female athletes as they do not eat enough to offset the energy they spend. In fact they may stop menstruating as a consequence.
The study, led by sports medicine researcher Anne Hoch, D.O., at The Medical College of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, has been presented at the American College of Sports Medicine meeting in Seattle.
"These two components of the female athlete tetrad put them at higher risk for the other two; the cardiovascular and bone density deficits of much older, postmenopausal women," according to Dr. Hoch, associate professor of orthopaedic surgery and director of the Froedtert and the Medical College Women's Sports Medicine Center.
The researchers studied 22 professional ballerinas, all members of the Milwaukee Ballet Company, to determine the prevalence of disordered eating, amenorrhea (lack of menstruation), abnormal vascular function and low bone density.
The dancers completed questionnaires on their menstrual patterns and eating habits, and underwent a blood test for hormonal levels. Thirty-six percent of the group had disordered eating habits and 77 percent were in a calorie deficit. Twenty-seven percent were currently amenorrheic, 23 percent had low bone mass density and nine percent were taking birth control.rterial ultrasound measurements revealed that 64 percent had abnormal artery dilation in response to blood flow.
"It was unknown if professional dancers without menstrual periods have evidence of vascular dysfunction, yet some characteristics of the tetrad were common in this group," says Dr. Hoch.
"Eighty-six percent had one or more components, and fourteen percent had all four," the expert added.