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Title: An exploration into the knowledge, understanding and management of the female athlete triad and the triad risk factors among elite swimmers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN)
Authors: Seals, Erin 
Keywords: Female Athlete Triad (FAT);Women sports;Female athletes;Female swimmers
Issue Date: 29-Sep-2022
The Female Athlete Triad (FAT) includes a spectrum of dysfunction referring
specifically to three health complications, which primarily are energy deficiency,
menstrual disturbances, and low bone mineral density. Women’s participation in
sport has drastically increased over the last four decades but women are still facing
stereotyping and are often expected to look a certain way, on and off the sporting
grounds. The female athlete triad is common and is widely researched in land
sports, such as athletics and endurance running, but the majority of the studies
focus on the prevalence of the condition, instead of its knowledge and/or
management. Despite FAT being widely researched in various sporting disciplines,
there was an apparent gap in the literature, and especially under investigated in elite
swimmers. Despite swimming being a popular endurance-type discipline, with
similar outcomes to land sporting disciplines, there is paucity in the current literature
on FAT in swimmers in South Africa.
The benefits of understanding the knowledge of FAT in an elite swimmer includes
optimizing energy availability by ensuring adequate caloric intake whilst exercising,
encouraging regular weight bearing exercise, improving the triad’s identification,
and preventing its occurrence.
Aim of the study
The aim of this study was to explore the knowledge, understanding and
management of FAT and the triad risk factors among elite swimmers in KwaZuluNatal (KZN).
A qualitative, exploratory, descriptive approach was used to guide the study. A semistructured interview guide was used to conduct in-depth interviews with nine elite
female swimmers in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). The main research questions for this
study were “Describe your understanding of the female athlete triad”, “Can you
expand/elaborate on what makes an individual at risk for the triad?” and “Describe the management options that you, or someone that you know that has had FAT
used”. The data were analysed using Tesch’s (Creswell 2007) method to identify
themes and sub-themes.
The main themes that emerged from the study were the lack of knowledge on the
female athlete triad, the understanding of the female athlete triad risk factors, the
understanding of the impact of fat on health and performance, the lack of education
surrounding the management of FAT and the lack in choice of healthcare. The
participants had poor knowledge of the term the Female Athlete Triad however, the
understanding of the triad risk factors was well understood. Participants in this study
lacked appropriate choices in healthcare, if they were to have been presented with
components of the triad.
The findings that emerged from this study indicate that there is a lack of knowledge
and understanding surrounding the female athlete triad, its associated risk factors
and the appropriate management interventions needed if an athlete were to be
diagnosed with FAT. Therefore, it is necessary for not only the chiropractic
community but for all health practitioners who may deal with elite female athletes to
educate and inform this population about the potential long term health
consequences of FAT.
Dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the
Master’s Degree of Technology in Chiropractic, Durban University of Technology, Durban, 2022.
Appears in Collections:Theses and dissertations (Health Sciences)

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