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From posted February 15, 2012, written by Casey Nolen

St. Louis (KSDK) - A warning for girls who play soccer and their parents. The athletes could be doing life-long damage to their bones.

Close to a half million girls are playing soccer regularly in the U.S. and those are the ones researchers are worried about.

You'd be hard pressed to find a group of girls more excited about soccer practice.

The fourth and fifth graders from The Heat out of Union, Missouri won a private practice session with U.S. Soccer star Becky Sauerbrunn Tuesday night.

In addition to drilling new techniques, Sauerbrunn stressed how to play safe.

But new research suggests, rest is only part of what female soccer players need more of.

Dr. Heidi Prather with Washington University studied 200 female St. Louis soccer players, from grade-schoolers to professionals. She says the research shows, female soccer players at every age, are not eating enough.

"Even though these girls did not have an eating disorder or we did not find them to be at risk for one, the amount of energy they were expending was greater than the energy they were taking in. And it's really hard to know that because you look at them and they don't look like they have a problem," said Dr. Prather.

Dr. Prather found that not enough fuel lead to irregular menstruation and stress fractures in female soccer players, two signs of poor bone growth and a critical time in a woman's development.

"Maybe this will spur somebody to ask the question, 'are you having a regular cycle,' or 'I am noticing you're kind of skipping a meal before we go to practice,'" said Dr. Prather.

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