Laboratory investigation

The analysis of basic blood parameters is also recommended as part of the PCMA. In general terms, the likelihood of identifying severe diseases is low, possibly except for renal failure (creatinine) and diabetes mellitus (glucose). However, they may be of use in detecting deficiencies (see below) or risk factors (e. g. increased uric acid) in players. Training intensity, and football in general, is not thought to influence the majority of blood parameters. 9,10

A good example of the potential utility of screening blood tests involves the assessment of iron status. It is known that in athletes who have very low iron stores (ferritin) there may be a demonstrable reduction in performance. This can be corrected with either iron supplementation or through changes in diet. The utility of screening for haematological and iron-related abnormalities has been assessed in a population of elite athletes. In male athletes this has a low yield. In females, however, it is greater. Based on these findings, it was suggested that a full blood count and a serum ferritin be performed on entry into a high-performance programme in male athletes. Further testing in men should be performed on clinical grounds. In view of the greater risk of iron depletion in female athletes, it is suggested that screening be repeated at six-month intervals.

Read the following articles to learn more about the utility of laboratory tests as a screening tool in elite athletes.