Rapid weight loss among judo competitors may be cause for concern

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Some competitive wrestlers are known to drop weight in a short amount of time before a competition. They may not be the only athletes to do so, according to a new study that found similar weight loss practices among judo competitors.

Researchers from the University of Sao Paulo and the Federal University of Sao Paulo in Brazil had 607 male and 215 female judo athletes taking part in regional, national and international competitions fill out a survey called the Rapid Weight Loss Questionnaire that included questions on diet history and rapid weight loss activities.

Excluding heavyweight athletes, 89% of the study participants said they had lost weight to compete, and there was little difference between male and female athletes. Among athletes in all weight classes, 86% engaged in pre-competition weight loss. Most athletes lost about 5% of their body weight in a short amount of time -- generally within a few days of a competition. Most athletes also said they dropped weight from two to five times a year to compete, but a substantial number did that six to 10 times a year.

As for how they did it, most increased exercise, used heated training rooms, dieted gradually, restricted fluids and skipped meals, while a smaller percentage used laxatives, winter or plastic suits and diuretics to drop weight. On average they started to cut their weight before reaching 15 years of age. Researchers noted that while slow dieting and exercise aren’t bad ways to drop pounds, some of the other methods, such as laxatives, could be problematic.


The authors wrote, ‘This finding reinforces the importance of rules aiming to prevent rapid weight reduction.’ The study was published in the March issue of the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

-- Jeannine Stein