BALTIMORE – College cheerleaders are at high risk for body image issues and eating disorders – and may be affected by how revealing their uniforms are, according to a study presented today at the American College of Sports Medicine’s 57th Annual Meeting in Baltimore.
Toni Torres-McGehee, Ph.D., ATC, studied 136 Division-I and Division-II college cheerleaders to determine if position (base, flyer, etc.) and clothing requirements (daily clothes vs. full or midriff uniforms) affected eating disorder incidence or body image dissatisfaction. Participants were surveyed for weight, height and perceived ideal weight.
Although position did not appear to be a factor, cheerleaders overall were highly disposed to eating disorders: 33.1 percent had some risk of eating disorder characteristics and/or behaviors. Cheerleaders on teams with midriff uniforms were most disposed to body-image issues.
“Maladaptive body image and eating behaviors can form during youth and last a lifetime,” Torres-McGehee said. “Teams and coaches should consider the long-term effects of requiring cheerleaders to wear revealing uniforms simply for aesthetic reasons.”
Participants were also asked about how they thought their coaches and parents perceived their body image, and appeared most concerned they weren’t fitting their coaches’ ideals for body composition.
“The point of collegiate cheerleading is to create camaraderie and team spirit and to keep girls active and healthy,” Torres-McGehee said. “Cheer coaches should keep these ideals in mind and try to reinforce self-esteem among their team members.”
The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 35,000 international, national and regional members and certified professionals are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to provide educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.
The conclusions outlined in this news release are those of the researchers only, and should not be construed as an official statement of the American College of Sports Medicine.