Monitoring Iron Levels In Male And Female Rugby Sevens Players Over An International Season: 929 Board #245 June 1, 3
METHODS: Australian national male (n=27) and female (n=23) rugby sevens players undertook blood tests at pre-season, mid-season, and end-season. Hemoglobin, hematocrit, ferritin, transferrin and transferrin saturation were quantified. Female athletes also reported oral contraceptive use and a subset (n=7) provided 7-day food diaries to quantify iron intake.
RESULTS: Male players typically had a three-fold higher ferritin concentration than females. Pre-season ferritin concentrations in male (151 ± 66 μg/L; mean ± SD) and female (51 ± 24 μg/L) players declined substantially (~20%) by mid-season, but recovered by end-season. Over the season, 23% of female players were classified as iron deficient (ferritin <30 μg/L) and prescribed supplementation. The greatest incidence of iron deficiency in female players occurred mid-season (30%). Oral contraception and dietary iron intake had an unclear influence on female players’ ferritin concentration. All other hematological variables were within normal physiological range.
CONCLUSION: Given the relatively low ferritin concentrations evident in female rugby sevens players, and the potential for further decline midway through a season when physical load is highest, 6-monthly hematological reviews are suggested in combination with dietary management. Annual screening may be beneficial for male players, with further monitoring only when clinically indicated.