Research Spotlight- Big Push in RED-S Research in Canadian High Performance Sport

The issue of Relative Energy Deficiency Syndrome (RED-s) has gained increasing attention with recent athlete stories chronicling the negative health and poor performance outcomes resulting from chronic low energy availability.  Research has shown that up to 60% of elite athletes have presented RED-s symptoms.  
Recently, the Canadian high performance system has pulled together to generate significant research and programmatic impact around RED-s. At the forefront of this work is the National RED-s Working Group consisting of: Dr. Trent Stellingwerff (CSI-Pacific), Liz Johnson (CSI-Pacific), Dr. Sharleen Hoar (CSI-Pacific), Dr. Paddy McCluskey (CSI-Pacific), Dr. Margo Mountjoy (University of Guelph), Kelly Drager (CSI-Calgary), Dr. Ida Heikura (University of Victoria), Meghan Buttle (CSI-Ontario) and Catharine Pendrel (Cycling Canada).  
Leveraging the support of Own the Podium (OTP) through Innovation for Gold (I4G) and Mitacs funding, as well as support from B2ten and 94Forward, Canada has been successful in recruiting Dr. Ida Heikura for a post-doctorate fellowship under the supervision of Dr. Trent Stellingwerff from CSI-Pacific and University of Victoria. The primary objective of the research is to develop a validated set of protocols (medical diagnosis/steps) to be implemented across the Canadian sport system for the prevention, early diagnosis and management of Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (RED-S). 
Other RED-s research in Canada includes an OTP I4G-funded project with Jen Sygo (RD, Toronto) and Gymnastics Canada which involves a deeper analysis into REDS and performance markers in gymnasts. Erik Sesbreno (RD Lead, INS) has a project on male beach volleyball players, REDS markers and performance outcomes. Kelly Drager (RD, CSI Calgary) is also involved in further developing CSI Calgary’s athlete intake document, including some extended REDS questions, for a bone assessment project at University of Calgary.  
Critical to the research of RED-s in high performance sport is continued communication and collaboration amongst researchers and national sport partners.  In March 2020 OTP hosted a Return to Health & Performance Symposium that featured RED-s as a major area of discussion (alongside Concussion and Musculoskeletal Injuries) regarding its etiology and approach to prevention and treatment.  This symposium was a follow-up to a more focused RED-s Think Tank jointly hosted by OTP and B2ten that generated a call-to-action for the Canadian high performance system. 
Canada is equally having a strong presence with members of the National Working Group collaborating with researchers around the world presence on the world stage and participating in IOC committees on RED-s, working towards diagnostic tool for detection and treatment of RED-s.  
For more information, please contact Dr. Trent Stellingwerff – Chair of the National RED-s Working Group

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