The Governing Body of Competitive Climbing Announces New Policy to Combat Eating Disorders in the Sport

As climbing has grown more mainstream and climbing competition has heated up, eating disorders have also become an increasing problem. Many athletes avoid eating proper amounts of food to keep their weight down, making them lighter on the wall. Now, the International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) has a new policy to combat the problem. 

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A 2020 study surveyed 605 climbers about their attitudes toward eating. Researchers called the questionnaire the “Eating Attitudes Test.” Unfortunately, the survey found many younger climbers, especially elite athletes, were commonly undereating. 

The IFSC, the governing body of competitive climbing, says the problem’s official name is Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport or REDs. They define the issue as “a syndrome that affects health and performance and is caused by a mismatch between the calories eaten and burned during exercise. It can lead to many short- and long-term health and performance issues.”

The organization is working with Olympic officials to implement the policy before the summer games to protect athletes’ health and safety.

“The new system underscores our commitment to the health of our athletes,” said IFSC President Marco Scolaris in their press release. “The policy will not only help us determine which athletes are most at risk, it will also help raise awareness of the issue, provide help to those who need it, and ensure the rights of each athlete are protected.”

The IFSC used scientific experts to create the initiative. They say there’s no single test to check for REDs but use a screening policy to check climbers.

The IFSC’s New Climbing Policy

Here are the guidelines for the screening process:

  • Athletes to fill out two short questionnaires aimed at accumulating personal parameters for such criteria as height, weight, heart rate and blood pressure. 
  • National Federations to issue each athlete a health certificate or request more testing before providing “clearance” to the IFSC.
  • IFSC to initiate random and focused testing of the parameters (including BMI, heart rate, and blood pressure) throughout the Climbing season. The IFSC will also store the information provided by the National Federations. 
  • An External Commission to review the data of suspected cases, comparing collected data with that of the National Federation health certificates. 

Learn more about the IFSC policy.