Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention


Taylor & Francis

Publication Date


First Page


Last Page



In light of conflicting research regarding eating disorder risk and sports participation, the current study examined the relationship between specific aspects of sports participation (i.e., level of competition, leanness requirements, and physical/cardiovascular intensity level), an individual’s motivation for sports participation, and eating disorder symptomatology/risk. Participants included 319 female collegiate athletes (Mage = 19.88; SD = 1.62) representing a variety of sports and competition levels. Multilevel modeling found that level of competition, receiving a scholarship, age, and years of collegiate sport played did not predict eating disorder risk. In the final model, there was a significant interaction between intrinsic motivation and sport intensity. For high intensity sports, higher levels of intrinsic motivation were associated with lower eating disorder risk. For low intensity sports, the level of intrinsic motivation did not impact eating disorder risk. For all sport intensities, extrinsic motivation was associated with a higher eating disorder risk. Results suggest that it is not the specific sport but athletes’ motivation for those sports with high physical/cardiovascular intensity and leanness requirements that is associated with untoward consequences. The results clarify conflicting results previously reported in the literature that have primarily employed univariate analyses and have implications for athletic development programs.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Eating Disorders: The Journal of Treatment & Prevention on September 17, 2018, available online: