Journal of Human Sport and Exercise

Anaemia and iron deficiency in female players in Albania; comparison with a reference group

Dhurata Bozo



Alterations of the red blood cell system and iron metabolism can influence physical performance. On the other hand, exercise can influence haematological variables (Petibois, C., et al., 2003). Screening for anaemia in sports persons is carried out primarily for health concern and secondly because it contributes to morbidity and diminished exercise performance (Descorges, 2008). While several studies in endurance sports show that dilutional "sports anaemia" can occur in the more elite athlete as an adaptation to aerobic conditioning,  the prevalence of iron deficiency and its impact on performance have not been adequately investigated in non-endurance athletes (Di Santolo, et al, 2008). The main objective of this study is to investigate the red blood cell population markers and the iron status in a group of 52 female volleyball players, and to identify possible differences with subjects of a reference sedentary group and the underlying factors underlying such responses. Eleven blood markers, of the red and white cell populations and the serum iron were studied in 52 female volleyball players from the local and university teams and  47 referent subjects, all aged 18-26 years, in blood samples taken from the cubital vein under standard conditions. The blood variables were analysed with an automatic cell counter, while iron status with a UV/visible spectrophotometer. Both female players and reference groups show similar range values for most of the blood markers and no significant differences (p<0.05) in means values for most of them. Players tend to have lower haemoglobin concentrations (35% of the subjects, under the norm vs 22% of the referents), RBC counts (32% under the normvs 20%), haematocrit level(35% under the normvs 22%) than sedentary counterparts. Iron status (only 12% under the norm for the players against 10.5% in referent subjects), differently from the RBC and Hgb data, demonstrate that iron deficiency does not seem to be the main and the only underlying factor for anaemia in the players groups. This is confirmed also by the differences in MCH, MCV and MCHC values between the two groups, which follow and are colinear to iron status data and intergroup differences. These data show that female players are in the borderline of the iron-dependent anaemic state, but with no significant differences with the referent counterparts, thus supporting the idea from other authors that, non-endurance physical activity, does not adversely affect particularly the iron stores (Di Santolo, et al, 2008), (Schumacher YO, et al, 2002). The significant differences between the groups for other blood indices like RBC counts, haematocrit, Hgb and others seems more likely to be due to the response to training volume, method and periodicity (Withold, et al., 2011).


female volleyball, blood markers, iron status, non-endurance response


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