Rogers Behavioral Health

Eating Disorders, Weight Restrictions, and Youth Sports

Posted on 08/25/14 01:16:pm

Did you know that youth sports can lead to eating and weight problems with certain individual kids or teenagers? Did you know that within some youth sports leagues weight restrictions are put on certain positions within a sport? Many popular sports are known to be "weight sensitive" including ballet, gymnastics, figure skating, wrestling, track/cross-country, and horse-back riding.

Did you know that football and rowing also have weight restrictions? Youth football leagues typically put caps on weights for entering the league and for certain positions. For instance, in certain leagues you must weigh 80 pounds to carry the football, and you cannot carry the ball if you weight over 100 pounds. Football and other sports typically have weight limits for safety reasons, however, in certain situations these types of weight restrictions can be detrimental to children’s health.

This is particularly true for kids who may be pursuing a certain position within a sport, or become obsessed with reaching a target weight for the sport in order to participate. This ultimately can lead to unhealthy weight loss, poor nutrition, disordered eating habits, and eating disorders.

Kids may restrict their food intake, increase their activity level, and exercise more to reach a desired weight to get a desired position. These behaviors become dangerous when they lead to dehydration, unnatural weight loss, and possibly abnormal body functions including low potassium.

These days our children have vast opportunities to participate in sports, whether it’s through school, local parks or recreations departments, sports leagues or athletic clubs. There are also multiple levels of sports in which children and teenagers compete including recreational, intramural, league, and even select. This is all in an effort to keep kids active with their peers, within their community, and for their health. What a wonderful thing!

Here's some advice for moms and dads…

Listen to your kids! Talk to coaches if you have concerns. Watch your child’s eating, sleeping, and activity patterns. Allow one activity per semester so kids don’t get too overwhelmed. Remember, health comes first!

What to watch for:

  1. Increasing discussion about weight limits in sports. This may come up as a nonchalant topic after a weight check at the doctor’s office, or a health check. Ask questions and get a good understanding of your child’s thought process.
  2. Changing habits – changes in eating patterns: eating less, paying close attention to calories or food labels, restricting intake, avoiding certain high fat/carb/calorie foods, restricting/over eating cycle, laxative use, or purging.
  3. Obsessing: Frequent weighing of self or obsessions regarding a certain measurement.
  4. Over-exercising: your child/teen should not have to exercise much more above and beyond their athletic practice times. If you notice that they are exercising before and/or after their practices, a red flag should go up!

What to do:

  1. Talk with your child and get a good idea of what is going on.
  2. Call your primary health care provider and schedule an appointment.
  3. If you have concerns that your child has an eating disorder, call Rogers Behavioral Health at 800-767-4411. We can provide free telephone screenings or additional information about our specialized programs. We also offer an online screening. 


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