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    Perspectives on relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S): a qualitative case study of athletes, coaches and medical professionals from a super league netball club

    O’Donnell, Justine, White, Chris and Dobbin, Nick ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-7508-1683 (2023) Perspectives on relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S): a qualitative case study of athletes, coaches and medical professionals from a super league netball club. PLoS One, 18 (5). e0285040-e0285040. ISSN 1932-6203

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    Abstract

    Background Research into relative energy deficiency in sport (RED-S) has increased substantially over recent years given the impact on athletes’ health and performance. Most studies have considered sports that place emphasis on the aesthetics, endurance, or weight-restriction. Fewer studies exist in team sports. Netball is a team sport yet to be explored despite players potentially being at risk of RED-S given the high training volumes, sporting culture, internal and external pressures, and small network of coaches and medical professionals. A qualitative case study was used to explore the perspective of athletes, coaches, and medical professionals on RED-S. Methods Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 13 players, 4 coaches and 4 medical professionals affiliated to a Super League club. Interviews were recorded and transcribed verbatim. The data was analysed using thematic analysis. Results Five main themes were identified in this study. Awareness of RED-S amongst athletes and coaches was generally inadequate whereas medical professionals had some awareness of RED-S. Some athletes used contraception to reduce discomfort/pain during menstruation whilst others expressed concerns around long-term contraceptive use and previous menstrual cycle disturbance. Sporting demands, individual and contextual factors, and a preoccupation with body image were associated with nutritional restriction, whilst appearance was a source of internal and external pressure. External pressures also extended to coaches, assessments/feedback, social media, and commentary. Strategies suggested to reduce the risk of RED-S included “hard hitting cases”, multidisciplinary team involvement, and support from the governing body. Conclusion The findings of this study provide insight into factors potentially associated with the risk of RED-S from an athletes, coaches, and medical professional perspective. This insight can be used to increase overall awareness of RED-S in key stakeholders as well as improve the recognition for the pressures netball athletes face that might alter the level of risk.

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