Screening for Low Energy Availability in Male Athletes: Attempted Validation of LEAM-Q

Bronwen Lundy, Monica K. Torstveit, Thomas B. Stenqvist, Louise M. Burke*, Ina Garthe, Gary J. Slater, Christian Ritz, Anna K. Melin

*Corresponding author for this work

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A questionnaire-based screening tool for male athletes at risk of low energy availability (LEA) could facilitate both research and clinical practice. The present options rely on proxies for LEA such screening tools for disordered eating, exercise dependence, or those validated in female athlete populations. in which the female-specific sections are excluded. To overcome these limitations and support progress in understanding LEA in males, centres in Australia, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden collaborated to develop a screening tool (LEAM-Q) based on clinical investigations of elite and sub-elite male athletes from multiple countries and ethnicities, and a variety of endurance and weight-sensitive sports. A bank of questions was developed from previously validated questionnaires and expert opinion on various clinical markers of LEA in athletic or eating disorder populations, dizziness, thermoregulation, gastrointestinal symptoms, injury, illness, wellbeing, recovery, sleep and sex drive. The validation process covered reliability, content validity, a multivariate analysis of associations between variable responses and clinical markers, and Receiver Operating Characteristics (ROC) curve analysis of variables, with the inclusion threshold being set at 60% sensitivity. Comparison of the scores of the retained questionnaire variables between subjects classified as cases or controls based on clinical markers of LEA revealed an internal consistency and reliability of 0.71. Scores for sleep and thermoregulation were not associated with any clinical marker and were excluded from any further analysis. Of the remaining variables, dizziness, illness, fatigue, and sex drive had sufficient sensitivity to be retained in the questionnaire, but only low sex drive was able to distinguish between LEA cases and controls and was associated with perturbations in key clinical markers and questionnaire responses. In summary, in this large and international cohort, low sex drive was the most effective self-reported symptom in identifying male athletes requiring further clinical assessment for LEA.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1873
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 1. May 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • EHMC
  • endurance
  • questionnaire
  • testosterone
  • validation


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