Low Energy Athlete Prevention Guidance
Low Energy Athlete Prevention (LEAP)
An Expectation of Normal or Positive Energy Availability
for Athletic Participation at Middlebury College
Middlebury College is committed to supporting the health and wellness of its student-athletes. There are growing concerns in the medical community regarding significant health risks for female athletes participating with low energy availability. These risks include: failure to attain peak bone mass, osteoporosis, stress fractures, amenorrhea, infertility, and mental health issues including depression, anxiety and disordered eating. Middlebury College does not condone athletes risking their long term health for the sake of athletic performance, and wants to help female athletes recognize potential problems before they cause significant harm. Therefore, beginning with the fall 2008 season, all female athletes intending to participate in Middlebury College intercollegiate Athletics programs will be expected to maintain normal or positive energy availability, and participate in a simple low energy availability screening program (Low Energy Athlete Prevention or L.E.A.P.).
Female athletes who screen positive for low energy availability will be referred to the Team Physician and a Nutritionist for more detailed assessment. When the assessment indicates low energy availability, the athlete may need complete or partial restriction from participation until normal or positive energy availability can be restored and maintained. In this situation, the athlete will be given specific goals with a timeframe for return. If goals can not be reasonably met within the specified timeframe, a recommendation for full restriction may be made. Some athletes may be referred to the Center for Counseling and Human Relations for assessment of mental health and/or eating disorders. Athletes with exercise-related compulsive disorders and/or eating disorders may need further assessment and possible restriction from athletic participation for reasons other than low-energy availability. A medical leave would be recommended in severe or life threatening situations.
In order to prevent any confusion or disappointment at the start of a season, coaches will inform incoming and returning athletes about this expectation. Concerned athletes who are off-campus on breaks are encouraged to make an appointment with their home physician and possibly a nutritionist and/ or behavioral counselor to assess their health. Student-athletes receiving such care can request that their records be forwarded to the appropriate Middlebury College health professional (Health Center, Counseling, Nutritionist) and coordination of care can be arranged when appropriate.
While there are also concerns about male athletes with low energy availability, there is currently insufficient medical evidence and outcomes data on which to make a similar recommendation for men. However, expansion of the screening program for male teams is being considered for the Fall of 2009, depending on availability of resources. This issue will continue to be explored, and changes made if new information becomes available.
More information about low energy availability and the L.E.A.P. program is available via the Sports Medicine webpage.