Date of Award

Spring 2020

Degree Type



Exercise Science

Director of Thesis

Toni M. Torres-McGehee, PhD, SCAT, ATC

First Reader

Allison B. Smith, MS, SCAT, ATC

Second Reader

Allison B. Smith, MS, SCAT, ATC


Content: Cheerleading has evolved into a highly competitive and physically demanding sport where athletes must balance academics, intense training, and pressure to maintain expected aesthetic qualities of the sport. These requirements can cause distress which may lead athletes to suffer from eating disorder (ED) risk and body image dissatisfaction (BID). Objective: To examine the prevalence of risk for ED and determine the presence of body image dissatisfaction within adolescent cheerleaders. Design: This study was conducted as a part of a larger concurrent study with Dr. Torres-McGehee and Allison Smith. It is a cross sectional study. Setting: Online survey. Participants: Female cheerleaders (n=116) were recruited to participate in this study to examine ED risk and cheerleaders (n=133) were examined for BID. Interventions: Independent variables include cheerleaders. Main Outcome Measures: Dependent variables include ED risk (at risk or not at risk) and BID. Results: Overall, 26.7% (n=31/116) of female cheerleaders were at risk for ED. Risk within all girls’ squad was 28% (n=23/82) and coed squad was 23.5% (n=8/34). ED risk for within individual positions were 34.2% (n=13/38) for main base, 15.4% (n=4/26) for side base, 33.3% (n=8/24) for back spot, 20.8% (n=5/24) for flyers, and 25.0% (n=1/4) for tumblers. Conclusion: Overall, 26.7% of female cheerleaders were at risk for ED. Additionally, all cheerleaders suffered with body image issues and desired to appear smaller in all forms of clothing. The cheerleading environment has the potential to have devastating effects on cheerleaders’ health and well- being. Therefore, it is essential to expand the body of knowledge on this topic so solutions may be presented to remedy these issues and created a better athletic environment for the future.

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