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Blood tests in tired elite athletes: expectations of athletes, coaches and sport science/sports medicine staff

Blood tests in tired elite athletes: expectations of athletes, coaches and sport science/sports medicine staff

British Journal of Sports Medicine 41(1): 41-44

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 dealt with in the sports medicine literature. As fulfillment of expectations of the content of a consultation may influence patient's satisfaction and clinical outcome, it is important to assess the expectations of athletes and, most importantly, coaches. 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 <7 days' duration. 28 senior sports science or non-medically qualified sports medicine staff, 22 elite coaches and 62 elite athletes from the Australian Institute of Sport were included in this study. A single questionnaire. 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 be performed in cases of more prolonged fatigue. Increase in total training load was perceived to be the most important cause of fatigue, but issues relating to sleep were also thought to be highly relevant. All groups suggested that blood tests provide 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. Athletes and their coaches generally expect that blood tests will be performed even when fatigue has been present for <1 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 athletes, coaches and doctors need to be considered when deciding on whether such testing has to be performed.

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Accession: 048397157

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PMID: 17062653

DOI: 10.1136/bjsm.2006.030999

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