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27.10.2006 » Blood tests in tired elite athletes: expectations of athletes and significant others

Br J Sports Med. 2006 Oct 24; [Epub ahead of print]

Blood tests in tired elite athletes - expectations of athletes. Coaches and sport science/sports medicine staff.

Fallon KE.

Australian Institute of Sport, Australia.

BACKGROUND: The issue of the expectations of elite athletes, their coaches and non-medically qualified athlete support staff of consultations with sports physicians has not been previously addressed in the sports medicine literature. As fulfilment of expectations of the content of a consultation may influence patient satisfaction and clinical outcome, it is important to assess the expectations of athletes and significant others, most importantly, coaches. OBJECTIVE: To assess the expectations and beliefs about fatigue, particularly in relation to blood tests, of athletes, their coaches and support staff in the specific context of tiredness of less than 7 days' duration. SUBJECTS: Twenty eight senior sports science or non medically qualified sports medicine staff, twenty two elite coaches and sixty-two elite athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport. METHODS: A single questionnaire. RESULTS: The expectation for a blood test at the initial consultation for short term fatigue was particularly high among athletes (81%) and coaches (91%). This expectation increased in athletes if their performance was worsening. All groups unanimously suggested that a blood test should be performed in cases of more prolonged fatigue. Increase in or total training load were perceived to be the most important causes of fatigue but issues relating to sleep were also thought to be highly relevant. All groups suggested that blood tests provided some degree of reassurance and all groups suggested that the most important blood tests that might be performed related to exclusion of iron deficiency, anaemia and infection. CONCLUSION: Athletes and their coaches generally expect that blood tests will be performed even when fatigue has been present for less than one week. This is at odds with currently available evidence of the diagnostic utility of these tests. Despite the current evidence base, individual factors in the athlete, coach and physician need to be considered when deciding if such testing is to be performed.


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