Another danger of dieting in young women may be seen on the playing fields. Female college athletes who restrict their calorie intake may be putting themselves at risk for stress fractures, new research finds.

The Study

Researchers from Saint Louis University investigated possible causes of exercise-related leg pain, including stress fractures, in 76 female college athletes playing soccer, field hockey, Cross-country running or volleyball.

The athletes who developed stress fractures were more likely to have disordered eating" which included insufficient calorie intake due to eating disorders and other nutritional deficiencies.

"When people expend more calories than they consume, they release fewer hormones, which slows down menstrual cycles. This decreases estrogen in the body, which is responsible for bone development," said Mark Reinking, chairman of the department of physical therapy at Saint Louis University's Doisy College of Health Sciences.

Risk fractures for exercise-related leg pain overall were a prior history of leg pain, disordered eating, and excessive pronation (rolling inward) of the foot.

Run Backward?

Running backward works the lungs more efficiently than running forward, burns more calories and lets bones absorb shock more effectively. Backward running also helps recovery from sprained ankles, pulled hamstrings and other leg and knee injuries, because it puts less impact on joints.

Best: Start slowly, until you build confidence.

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