ACSM Publishes New Guidance for Safer Practices in Weight-Category Sports

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ACSM Publishes New Guidance for Safer Practices in Weight-Category Sports

April 26, 2021

ACSM recently released new guidelines that support safer practices and more equitable competitions for athletes in weight-category sports. The new expert consensus statement updates and replaces previous guidelines released by ACSM in 1996. ACSM subject matter experts authored the statement, “American College of Sports Medicine Expert Consensus Statement on Weight Loss in Weight-Category Sports,” which was published in the April issue of Current Sports Medicine Reports.

“With the growth of participation in combat sports, more athletes are now involved in making a weight category as required for safe and equitable competition, yet athletes often manipulate their weight to gain an advantage over their opponent,” said co-author Craig Horswill, Ph.D., a clinical associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Nutrition at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “Extreme weight-making practices can lead to health and performance concerns.”

“These updated guidelines provide a range of strategies and practices to support the safety of athletes at all levels in weight-category sports,” added co-author and sports dietitian Louise Burke, OAM, Ph.D., FACSM, who is the chair of Sports Nutrition at Australian Catholic University.

The new guidance seeks to help athletes establish a practical and long-term approach to body mass management for health and performance while recognizing the nuances of individual weight-category sports. It expands upon ACSM’s 1996 position stand that focused on wrestling and now includes guidance for multiple sports.

This expert consensus statement specifically outlines:

  • Differences in weight-category sports that influence weight making practices and a summary of weight categories, weigh-in procedures and competition characteristics for several sports
  • Common factors in weight-making practices and their associated potential benefits and disadvantages
  • Strategies for recovery of fluid and carbohydrate stores between weigh-in and event
  • Concerns associated with making weight
  • Effects of rapid weight loss on performance
  • Strategies and rule changes to minimize harmful weight-making practices, including specific interventions and associated positive and negative effects
  • Specific recommendations for sporting organizations, clinicians, coaches and athletes to support safer weight making practices

“While no single approach is likely to be successful across all weight-category sports, this paper offers some general guidance around making weight safely,” said ACSM Chief Science Officer Lynette Craft, Ph.D., FACSM. “Publishing this guidance aligns with ACSM’s mission to integrate scientific research to improve education and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine.”  

ACSM Expert Consensus Statements serve as official statements on topics of high importance to sports medicine and exercise science. Consensus statements blend research evidence and expert opinion to present a well-rounded summary of the topic.

View the paper, a complementary PowerPoint presentation for classroom lectures and more information about ACSM’s Expert Consensus Statements at  

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About the American College of Sports Medicine

The American College of Sports Medicine is the largest sports medicine and exercise science organization in the world. More than 50,000 international, national and regional members are dedicated to advancing and integrating scientific research to improve educational and practical applications of exercise science and sports medicine. More details can be found at