Although professional athletes seem to embody health and fitness, they also face a variety of health risks. Fortunately, nowadays, many of these risks can be monitored in the laboratory. Italian researchers provide an overview of the most important parameters in the assessment of an athlete’s health.
By Barbara Lombardo & Olga Scudiero
In sports, laboratory medicine can be considered a preventive and protective science. Its fundamental aims for professional athletes are to evaluate their condition and to identify the best strategies to optimize performance, whilst reducing the risks related to strenuous physical exercise.
In a recent article, published in Clinical Chemistry and Laboratory Medicine, a group of researchers from Naples, Italy set themselves the task of identifying and describing laboratory parameters that can help to assess an athlete’s health and to set up adequate therapeutic actions.
The researchers focused particularly on parameters that change during and after exercise, such as hormonal status and haemostatic balance. Haemostasis describes the complex natural process of maintaining the flow of blood whilst stopping any bleeding in case of an injury. Changes in this state of balance are reflected by a range of laboratory values like the concentration of fibrinogen and blood platelet count. Monitoring haemostatic balance can help in the assessment of cardiovascular risks such as thrombosis (the formation of a blood clot in a blood vessel).
Blood count analyses, moreover, are vital to protect athletes from anemia – a deficiency in red blood cells and one of the most common pathological conditions in athletes. Blood counts are also essential in the detection of blood doping, whereby red blood cell concentration is artificially increased to boost an athlete’s performance.
Physical activity induces cellular modifications, bringing about changes in the liver, kidney, heart and muscles, as well as in energy and bone metabolisms. According to the researchers, it is important to keep in mind that a lot of biochemical parameters vary in proportion to the increase in physical exercise. A continuous monitoring of these parameters is thus necessary to ensure athletes’ health and to shed light on metabolic deficiencies that might be asymptomatic.
What is more, the health status of athletes can be influenced by a variety of genetic factors. To prevent sudden cardiac deaths, the researchers emphasize that it would be useful to include genetic analyses in pre-participation screenings – especially for athletes with borderline symptoms and/or a family history of heart disease: “The evaluation and the knowledge of these parameters might represent a diagnostic tool in the medical laboratory for elite athletes.”
Read the original article here:
Barbara Lombardo, Viviana Izzo, Daniela Terracciano, Annaluisa Ranieri, Cristina Mazzaccara, Fabio Fimiani, Arturo Cesaro, Luca Gentile, Eleonora Leggiero, Raffaela Pero, Barbara Izzo, Andrea Carlo D’Alicandro, Danilo Ercolini, Giovanni D’Alicandro, Giulia Frisso, Lucio Pastore, Paolo Calabrò and Olga Scudiero: Laboratory medicine: health evaluation in elite athletes, 05.03.2019.