Swim England

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New guidance to help identify warning signs of low energy availability

New guidance to help coaches, athletes and parents identify the warning signs of low energy availability has been published by Swim England.

Two documents have been created to help raise awareness about the potential health and performance consequences associated with low energy availability – and how to help athletes get support.

Low energy availability occurs when athletes don’t eat enough calories to meet their training demands, resulting in the body not having enough energy to support all physiological functions needed to maintain optimal health.

It can be the first sign of an eating disorder or disordered eating and the guidance includes important information on the physical, psychological or behavioural symptoms associated with low energy availability.

The guidance is broken down into information for coaches, team managers, support staff and welfare officers, with a separate document focused on specific advice for athletes and parents.

Diane Elliot, Swim England’s sports science and sports medicine manager, said: “The welfare of all aquatic athletes is extremely important and we hope this guidance will be useful tool for coaches, team manager, parents and everyone who takes part in our amazing sports.

“There are high rates of low energy availability in aquatics but little awareness on the signs and symptoms.

“We know that low energy availability is linked to eating disorders or disordered eating so we hope these vitally important guidance documents will help raise awareness and give people the confidence to open up and discuss their issues.

Early intervention is key

“For coaches, team managers, support staff and welfare officers, the guidance includes a flow diagram to help you understand the process from when you first identify a suspected issue and the best path to take.

“Although coaches and club officials are not expected to diagnose the cause of low energy availability, there are suggested questions to ask if they suspect an athlete is struggling and needs additional support.

“It’s important parents and athletes also have the necessary information on identifying those first signs, how to seek support and who from, which is why we have created guidance just for them.

“Early intervention is key so having clear guidelines and awareness to get the appropriate support is crucial.”

The guidance documents also include resources from the UK’s eating disorder charity, Beat.

If someone has a concern about a young person, male or female, with potential disordered eating, the documents will give them advice on where they can go locally for help – such as GPs, charities and private medical services.

A dedicated web page, which includes the guidance documents plus other useful information and links to support, has also been published by Swim England.

To view it, please click here.