Recognizing Eating Disorders In Your Young Athletes

Andy looked frail and he couldn’t find space on offense for a jumper. He had 22 in our last contest with #1 Plantsville, but that seemed impossible today. He turned the ball over twice on consecutive possessions and then Plantville’s #15 easily wrestled the ball from Andy at half-court for a third. Our best player, our toughest player and most improved – he wasn’t just coming off the flu as mom thought. He was on the verge of a heart attack, and with 2:16 left in the first quarter, no one knew it.

Andy’s heart rate had hit a dangerously low level according to his pediatrician one day later. He hadn’t been eating enough and his heart couldn’t handle it. I was distraught to be honest. I had put the kid out on the court. Fortunately he made it to the hospital in time and spent 2 weeks in intensive care. He’s now back home and in counseling to help him recover. Andy has had to deal with a collection of challenges sometimes underappreciated in young kids – changes in family dynamics, the loss years ago of his dad, the love of basketball and the desire to be the best, to be the fittest, but almost at a tragic cost. He’s on the road back but it may be long one. When he returns to middle school soon I wonder how education will fit into Andy’s recovery. So much of the message in school today is about healthy eating, avoiding sugars, ‘watching what you eat.’ So much of what Andy will hear and see from kids – their words, their clothes, their eating habits – will no doubt force him to juggle that what he is learning is right, and push down what he knows could put him back in the hospital.  He needs to find a balance I suppose, to find a space he’s comfortable in. Sort of like basketball.

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