Canadian national sport organizations’ eating disorder-related policies and practice guidelines: A summative content analysis


Athletes are at significant risk of developing eating disorders (EDs). Sport policies can address the prevention, management, and return to sport following EDs. Although Canadian national sport organizations (NSOs) must comply with a universal code of conduct, there may be a need for additional policies and guidelines to address EDs. The purpose of this study was to examine the scope and content of ED-related policies and practice guidelines within Canadian NSOs. We searched all publicly available policy and guideline documents from Canada’s 64 NSOs and screened them for terms related to disordered eating, body image, nutrition/diet, exercise, and weight bias/stigma yielding 98 policies and 39 guidelines. We conducted a summative content analysis to examine the contextual use of our search terms, and the social and cultural implications of such use. No NSO had specific policy or practice guidelines addressing EDs. In policies, ED-related concepts (e.g., body shaming; weight-control) were discussed using standard language from the universal code of conduct. In guidelines, ED-related topics were discussed in relation to mental health, coaching female athletes, athlete development, nutrition, positive body image, and weight management. Guidelines often used language that perpetuates weight stigma and the stereotype that EDs are a feminine issue. We also observed a lack of coherence wherein policies outline prohibited behavior, but guidelines do not provide adequate guidance for optimal behavior. This study provides insight into the lack of systemic action surrounding EDs in Canadian sport and can inform the development of governance mechanisms to better address EDs.