Scholarly Communications Project

Winning at All Costs?: The Weight-Control Behaviors of Student Athletes.


Amy Elaine Mulholland Spelke

Master's Thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Virginia Tech in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

M.A. Ed.




Joan B. Hirt, Chair
Jerry Via
Janice McBee

March 27, 1997
Blacksburg, Virginia


The purpose of this study was to explore student athletes╣ weight-control behaviors. Data consisted of student athletes╣ responses to a modified version of the Michigan State Weight-Control Survey (Dummer, Rosen, Heusner, Roberts, & Counsilman, 1987). Specifically, the study was designed to explore the following research hypotheses: 1. There is no significant relationship between the weight-control behaviors of athletes competing in sports with weight restrictions (e.g., wrestling) and sports without weight restrictions (e.g., tennis). 2. There is no significant relationship between the weight-control behaviors of athletes competing in sports with subjective judging (e.g., diving) and sports with objective scoring (e.g., swimming). 3. There is no significant relationship between the weight-control behaviors of male athletes and female athletes. The sample was drawn from intact athletic teams at the university under study. All members of the selected teams were invited to participate. The results of this research contributed to both practice and research. Athletic department staff and coaches, student affairs practitioners, and health care practitioners were made more aware of weight-control issues for athletes and might design programs and services to address the issue. The study also lays the groundwork for future research. Scholars may wish to examine other elements of sport (e.g., level of competition, seasonal demands) and their effects on the weight-control behaviors of athletes. The results revealed that there is a significant relationship between weight-control behaviors and the type of weight restrictions (weight restricted versus non-weight restricted) a sport places on athletes (p < .05). There is also a significant relationship between the sex of athletes and the weight-control behavior that they engage in (P < .05). The relationship between the weight-control behaviors and the type of judging (subjective versus objective scoring) involved in the sport was also examined. Though the relationship was not significant at the p = .05 level, it was significant at the p = .1 level. The results of this research addressed an existing gap in the current body of knowledge. There is very little research about weight-control behaviors of athletes in specific groups of sports. Better understanding the demands that different types of sports place on athletes may enable future scholars and practitioners to better serve the population.

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