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Medicina dello Sport 2013 March;66(1):61-70


language: English, Italian

Body image perception and satisfaction in elite rhythmic gymnasts: a controlled study

Borrione P. 1, Battaglia C. 1, Fiorilli G. 2, Moffa S. 2, Tsopani D. 4, Piazza M. 3, Calcagno G. 2, Di Cagno A. 1, 2

1 Department of Health Sciences, “Foro Italico” University of Rome, Rome, Italy; 2 Department of Medicine and Health Science, University of Molise, Campobasso, Italy; 3 Department of Anatomy Histology and Forensic Medicine, University of Florence, Florence, Italy; 4 Faculty of Physical Education and Sport Science, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, Daphne, Greece


Aim: Participation in competitive sport has been frequently linked to distortions in body image. The aim of this study was to verify the correctness of the perception of one’s own body image and level of satisfaction to foresee eating disorders in elite rhythmic gymnasts, as well as carry out potential preventive strategies.
Methods: The Figure Rating Scale1 were completed by 81 female elite gymnasts, 20 competing at international (age 18.1±2.4 years) and 61 at national level (age 16.1±2.9 years), and 80 matched controls (age 17.1±3.7 years).
Results: Elite athletes had the right perception of their own body image, corresponding to the real silhouette, estimated by BMI, whereas lower level gymnasts and other sport athletes perceived themselves significantly more fat (P<0.01) than the real size. The overall sample expressed a significant dissatisfaction (P<0.01) with their own body image. One way ANOVA showed significant differences amongst groups in BMI (P<0.01; F2,136=83.20), amount of training (P<0.01; F2,136=290.42), current body image (P<0.01; F2,136=91.77), perceived body image (P<0.01; F2,136=35.72), and ideal body image (P<0.01; F2,136=41.87). Age was significantly (P<0.01) and negatively correlated with body image perception, ideal body image was significantly correlated with BMI, and technical level (P<0.01).
Discussion: The elite gymnasts of our sample have a realistic image of their body, whereas lower level gymnasts and control group perceived themselves significantly more fat than the real size. Overall sample wished to be more slender.
Conclusion: Despite the overall sample demonstrated dissatisfaction of their body image, the elite gymnasts have a more precise body image perception than lower level gymnasts and other sport athletes, an essential quality in the prevention of pathological eating behaviours.

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