Participation in appearance-based sports, particularly at the collegiate level, may place additional pressures on female athletes to be thin, which may increase the likelihood of their resorting to drastic weight control measures, such as disordered eating behaviors.
(1) To estimate the prevalence and sources of eating disorder risk classification by academic status (freshman, sophomore, junior, or senior) and riding discipline (English and Western), (2) to examine riding style and academic status variations in body mass index (BMI) and silhouette type, and (3) to examine these variations across eating disorder risk classification type (eg, body image disturbances).
Seven universities throughout the United States.
Patients or Other Participants:
A total of 138 participants volunteered (mean age = 19.88 ± 1.29 years). They represented 2 equestrian disciplines: English riding (n = 91) and Western riding (n = 47).
Main Outcome Measure(s):
Participants self-reported menstrual cycle history, height, and weight. We screened for eating disorder risk behaviors with the Eating Attitudes Test and for body disturbance with sex-specific BMI silhouettes.
Based on the Eating Attitudes Test, estimated eating disorder prevalence was 42.0% in the total sample, 38.5% among English riders, and 48.9% among Western riders. No BMI or silhouette differences were found across academic status or discipline in disordered eating risk. Overall, participants perceived their body images as significantly larger than their actual physical sizes (self-reported BMI) and wanted to be significantly smaller in both normal clothing and competitive uniforms.
Disordered eating risk prevalence among equestrian athletes was similar to that reported in other aesthetic sports and lower than that in nonaesthetic sports. Athletic trainers working with these athletes should be sensitive to these risks and refer athletes as needed to clinicians knowledgeable about disordered eating. Professionals working with this population should avoid making negative comments about physical size and appearance.