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Even star rugby players grapple with body image concerns, finds research

Even star rugby players grapple with body image concerns, finds research

A good appearance is important for many, yet, it might not always come easily for them. So much so, that it might even take a toll on an individual’s mental health, a fact substantiated by a recently conducted research. According to this study, conducted by the researchers at the University of Otago and published online in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research” in Nov 2017, some of  New Zealand’s Super Rugby players were suffering from body anxiety problems, which was probably caused because of their inability to maintain a balance between eating correctly and maintaining their good looks.

To carry out the analysis, the researchers asked a group of 26 super rugby players to fill out a 49-item questionnaire during their pre-season training. The questionnaire required the players to rate each of their body parts on a scale of ‘always happy’ to ‘never happy’ and a body image score was determined, based on ‘drive for thinness’, ‘bulimia’ and ‘body dissatisfaction’. A score above 20 pointed towards a poor body image. Upon completion, the researchers found that a number of players in the group  indulged in binge-eating to regulate their intake of food better. A few of the players were also making themselves sick. Young players were found to be more vulnerable to develop body image issues.

The study’s lead author Katherine Black was of the opinion that the players had chosen an unhealthy way to control their body image. She said, “We’re sort of getting up to, not clinical eating disorders, but borderline potential problems, in terms of the way that they’re eating – so binge-eating or thinking about making themselves sick to control the amount that they’re eating.”

Players’ performance at risk for decline

A continued focus on body image issues might deteriorate the players’ performance, said Katherine. Adding further, she said, “A small percentage of players have issues with body image, if these issues were to continue then potentially they would be suffering some health issues in their later careers or when they finish playing and potentially influencing performance and training.”

A reputable performer and sports dietician Dane Baker said that the New Zealand players were using approximately 4000 calories a day while exercising. Moreover, the use of social media was a major reason that was adding to the pressure of looking good and maintaining it for social acceptance.

“I think what we are seeing now is a reflection of what we’ve seen in female athletes – it’s been well-documented for the past 20 years that there’s a high amount of pressure on body image. Nowadays you only have to look on Instagram or Facebook to see those sorts of pressure on young guys,” as reiterates Baker.

It is the responsibility of the Super Rugby franchises to educate their young players about the significance of eating healthy, feels Katherine, so that they are able to prevent the risk of developing body image anxiety.

Dealing with anxiety

Anxiety can affect anyone. Therefore, one must stay preventive and safeguard themselves from the risk of developing any such mental health issues. It is also important to be aware about any signs and symptoms of such disorders so that their presence can be identified and one can seek consultation from an expert at the right time.

If you or someone you know is dealing with anxiety, the Anxiety Disorder Helpline can offer help. Call our 24 hour anxiety hotline number (866) 971-7951 or chat online with one of our experts to know about the best and most comprehensive anxiety disorder treatment centers in different parts of the U.S. So, what are you waiting for? Get in touch now!