BMI monitoring by IFSC


Thursday, 25 February

During the last month, several top climbers have come forward talking about their eating disorder. IFSC have for several years been aware of the problem and there is a medical commission which has the goal, "to protect Sport Climbing from deliberately induced underweight climbers - associated with eating disorders it may lead to severe health problems." In an article, they talk about BMI regulations etc., which apply to males below 18.5 and females below 17.5 BMI.

"The BMI is an easy manageable screening tool to detect a group of underweight athletes. It is calculated by dividing the body weight by the square of the height (BMI = m/h²)."

Here are some mathematical examples of differently sized climbers that according to IFSC are within the critical margins.
185 cm and 63 kg = 18.4
180 cm and 60 kg = 18.5
175 cm and 56.5 kg = 18.4
170 cm and 53.5 kg = 18.4

170 cm and 50.5 kg = 17.5
165 cm and 47.5 kg = 17.4
160 cm and 44.6 kg = 17.4

IFSC has done BMI screenings during 13 World Cups since 2012, monitoring semi-finalists. In total, 34 athletes were below the critical margin with almost all cases until 2015.

"A letter is sent to athletes and National Federations if the BMI is critical. The IFSC can show up, inform and educate, but National Federations have the responsibility to support the affected athletes with medical, psychological and nutritional help."

Interestingly, no BMI tests were done in 2019 and never on the youngsters. It is also said that in 2020 a slight adjustment was needed as the previous margins "did not reflect the whole critical group of athletes."

I think that IFSC has done a good job introducing this and handing over the BMI "problem" to the federations, as a low BMI should only be considered an indication of an earing disorder. At the same time, IFSC could start screening Youth Cups as it is normally there the underweight begins. One reason why IFSC found fewer climbers below the critical BMI regulations is probably due to reducing climbing time in Lead and also that some skinny climbers also started to train Speed and Boulder due to the Olympic format. However, as we will probably see more climbers focusing only on Lead in the coming years, it would be great that IFSC started also to monitor Youth Cups. Many of the climbers that lately have come forward talking about their eating disorder problems express that it started being a teenager.

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