Risk for eating disorders in “high”- and “low”-risk sports and football (soccer): A profile analysis with clustering techniques

Débora Godoy Izquierdo, Isabel Díaz Ceballos, María J. Ramírez Molina, Estefanía Navarrón Vallejo, Joaquín Dosil Díaz


Eating disorders (EDs) are prevalent in sports. Although a distinction has been made to date between high- and low-risk sports for EDs, recent studies have indicated that footballers and other athletes in low-risk sports are as vulnerable for Eds as athletes from sports that emphasize weight and body appearance. The aim of this study was to determine whether there are particular configurations of psychosocial risk factors for EDs among athletes from different sports (N = 357), with a special focus on football players. The Athlete’s Eating Habits Questionnaire (CHAD) was used to establish intra-individual configurations through a multivariate k-means cluster analysis. We found that 10.9% of athletes and 11.4% of the footballers had scores on the CHAD ≥ 100 points, which indicates that a large number of athletes are at risk for developing or may already be suffering from an ED. Three configurations or risk profiles emerged based on the beliefs, attitudes and behaviours that reflect differential schemata for each cluster: high (8.7%), moderate (45.1%) and low (46.2%) risk. Football players had a profile that was similar to the moderate, though existent, risk cluster. Our findings also question the traditional classification of sports as high- vs. low-risk. Athletes, including footballers, may have a heightened risk for EDs when they have certain combinations of dysfunctional beliefs, attitudes and behaviours. Our findings indicate that it is important to consider relevant predisposing factors with the aims of risk detection and EDs prevention among athletes. The type of sport does not appear to be the most important risk factor.


Football; Soccer; Eating disorders; Risk; Prevention; Cluster analysis; K-means

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