Information about weight controls in Taekwondo.

Taekwondo, like most martial arts, is a weight-controlled sport which means that when athletes compete it is based on their body weight. Weight categories are used at all competitive levels and age groups.

Some weight loss techniques used by athletes can be very harmful and cause many severe health complications for the athlete. Therefore, it is vital that there is more awareness of these harmful practice’s athletes may be using (or being asked to use) in order to reduce their body weight for competitions.

Damaging weight loss methods to look out for include:

  • Body fluid manipulation – limiting water intake whilst maximising sweat production through the use of sweat suits during extreme exercise bouts, and saunas resulting in dehydration.
  • The use of diet pills, laxatives or vomiting.
  • Extreme limitation of food intake.

What are the risks?

Short term:

  • Increased feelings of tension.
  • Decrease in body confidence.
  • Dehydration.
  • Decrease in performance.

Long Term:

  • Unhealthy eating habits carried into adulthood such as restricting food intake then binge eating.
  • Development of severe eating disorders.
  • Organ failure and death.

What is influencing some athletes to rapidly cut weight?

Young athletes naturally look up to their coaches, parents and elite athletes as role models and often imitate their behaviours.

Coaches and parents have been known to encourage younger athletes to follow the trend of ‘cutting weight’ before competitions in order to gain a competitive advantage.

Some athletes are taught from an early age that it is beneficial to use these unhealthy techniques in order to reduce body weight before competitions. However, their lack of experience on this subject makes them more vulnerable to the negative effects of these methods.

What should I do?

If a coach says that your child needs to lose or gain weight, or if you’re concerned about your child’s eating habits, please talk to your doctor. The doctor can work with you or refer you to a dietitian to develop a healthy eating plan for your young athlete.

Athletes need to consume the right amount and mix of foods and drinks to support their higher level of activity whilst training and competing. That mix is probably not too different to a normal healthy diet. Eating for sports should be another part of healthy eating for life.

Remember that restricting a child’s food or liquid intake is neglect and a form of child abuse.

Should you need to report a safeguarding concern you can do so by completing the Online Safeguarding Report Form.