Reading Passage: What to Do If You Suspect an Athlete Has RED-S

Module 8: What to Do If You Suspect an Athlete Has RED-S?

As stated previously, it is challenging to identify which athletes have or are at risk for RED-S due to the ambiguous and variable presentations. If a coach suspects that an athlete may be experiencing Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S) based on the aforementioned risks and signs/symptoms, the first step is to carefully speak to the athlete about their concerns. It is important for coaches to prioritize the health and well-being of their athletes over performance goals.

Communicating with athletes suspected of having RED-S can be a delicate and sensitive matter, and it is important for coaches to approach the situation with empathy and compassion. Here are some guidelines for how to communicate with athletes suspected of having RED-S:

What to say:

  • Express concern for the athlete's health and well-being.
  • Encourage the athlete to seek medical attention and offer to help them find a healthcare professional who specializes in sports nutrition or sports medicine.
  • Emphasize that eating a balanced diet and fueling the body properly is essential for optimal performance and long-term health.
  • Work with the athlete and healthcare professional to develop a personalized nutrition and training plan that takes into account their individual needs and goals.
  • Recognize that recovery may take time and require adjustments to training and competition schedules.
  • Emphasize that the athlete's health and well-being are the top priority, and that their long-term success depends on maintaining a healthy and sustainable approach to training and competition.

What not to say:

  • Avoid using language that may be perceived as shaming or judgmental, such as "you need to eat more" or "you're not eating enough."
  • Don't assume that the athlete's behavior is intentional. Disordered eating and RED-S are complex and multifactorial issues.
  • Don't make assumptions about the athlete's motivations or goals. Not all athletes who engage in restrictive eating or excessive training do so in order to lose weight or improve performance.

How to support athletes emotionally:

  • Offer emotional support and validation for the athlete's experiences and feelings.
  • Encourage the athlete to talk openly and honestly about their experiences, and listen non-judgmentally.
  • Be supportive and empathetic, and avoid pressuring the athlete or making them feel guilty or ashamed.
  • Help the athlete to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs about food, weight, and performance.
  • Encourage the athlete to seek additional support from a mental health professional or support group if needed.
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