Local News

Athletes Not Immune To Eating Disorders

Posted February 15, 2000

— Many athletes think of their bodies as machines, but they do not treat them as such. A new study from UNC about the eating habits of athletes should concern parents with children of all ages who play sports.

Professor Barbara Bickford wrote an article about athletes and eating disorders for a sports law journal. She believes coaches and trainers often ignore the problem despite obvious warning signs.

"Their body weight becomes significantly below average so you can look at them," Bickford says. "You can see their tendons and their muscle definition. They're emaciated."

Sylvia Hatchell, UNC women's coach, has coached basketball for over 20 years. She talks to her players about healthy habits every day.

"There is hardly a day that goes by that we don't talk about eating habits and sleeping habits," Hatchell says. "Even at practice, we give out vitamins."

Bickford agrees that UNC's staff and athletes are well-educated about eating disorders, and there is good reason for other universities to do the same. She believes schools could be legally liable for an athlete's health.

"Filing a lawsuit is one way to gain attention," Bickford says. "It's not the way I would recommend, but it is certainly one way to gain attention."

There have been some cases where athletes settled lawsuits against coaches and schools. Bickford suggests schools set up risk-management programs to educate their staff and their players so they can protect both the school and their athletes. "We saw athletes in every sport that had anorexia and bulimia," says UNC professor Barbara Bickford. -->

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