Nia Yancopoulos

December Woman of Steel Nia

Nia Yancopoulos received several nominations for IOF’s Woman of Steel project because of her dynamic personality, her leadership qualities, and the inspirational nature of her story. IOF has chosen to feature her as this month’s Woman of Steel with the hopes that her story will inspire other young women around the world as much as those who know her.

Nia was born with a hereditary bone condition that required both back and ankle surgeries while she was just a young girl. Afflicted with a condition known as Athletic Performance Energy Deficit, her bones were naturally weaker than normal, despite being in good health and leading a very active lifestyle otherwise. Athletic and Performance Energy Deficit occurs in children when their nutrition doesn’t match their energy needs, so their bodies do not build bones strong enough to support their athletics. This condition led to serious bone health issues for Nia very early on in life, but like every obstacle that she has faced, these setbacks became new challenges for her to overcome.

A natural athlete, Nia excelled in basketball, soccer, softball and running, even when her bone health issues were becoming more and more serious. For nearly a year, she continued playing various sports with a seemingly broken back before doctors correctly identified the source of her ongoing pain to be a Pars Fracture (spondylolysis). The Pars Fracture occurs in the lower portion of the spinal column--normally around the lumbar vertabrae — and can be a problem for young athletes involved in activities that require the routine bending and straightening of the spine.  As a result of the Pars Fracture, she wore a body cast for six months, underwent a seven hour surgery, followed by a week in the intensive care unit.

Still only 20 years of age, Nia has already persevered through a lifetime's worth of challenges. Now studying for a career in medicine, she hopes to spread awareness about Athletic Performance Energy Deficit so that that her experience with the condition and with her various fractures are avoided by other young athletes. And like every other goal she has put in front of herself so far — be it personal, athletic, or academic — we are sure she will triumph.

IOF Woman of Steel, Nia Yancopoulos

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