Teenage boys obsessed with building muscle may be suffering from the reverse of anorexia, or so a new study believes. The problem is believed to impact young, elite rugby players who are constantly under pressure to be in tip-top shape.
Paul Russell who is a Sports psychologist and Strength and Conditioning MSc Programme Leader at the University of Bolton believes there is a link between perfectionism and what is known as muscle dysmorphia.
In a news report by the university's School of Health and Social Sciences, Russell explained the impact of such a condition: "Muscle dysmorphia has been demonstrated to leave individuals vulnerable to a range of psychological, biological, and environmental risks including; depression heart failure, renal failure, and dehydration, the use of extreme dieting behaviours, exercise addiction and the use of anabolic steroids that have been associated with the premature death of several bodybuilders."
Sometimes called reverse anorexia nervosa or in the case of body builders, "bigorexia", it is when a person becomes obsessed with building. The condition is most common in bodybuilders, but Russell believes that it manifests in younger sportsmen and women too.
In particular, a young rugby player's determination to make the first team could lead to the player taking extreme measures, such as drinking protein shakes and even resorting to steroids in order to build the muscle that they believe will assist them in reaching their goal.
Reigning body building World Champion and 2007 Mr Universe, South African, Marius Dohne, was quoted in a Carte Blanche episode on the subject in 2009: "One of the biggest mistakes that youngsters make nowadays is that they get the wrong advice from the wrong people."
Russell plans on focusing on 17- to 19-year-olds who are "nowhere near fully grown or ready to deal with a 16 stone adult, first-team player." His research project aims to assess at least 200 young rugby players and will run for three years.