The effect of intramuscular iron injections on serum ferritin levels and physical performance in elite netballers

J Sci Med Sport. 1999 Dec;2(4):311-21. doi: 10.1016/s1440-2440(99)80004-8.


The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of iron supplementation by intramuscular injection on both serum ferritin (SF) levels and exercise performance in iron depleted, non-anaemic elite female netballers. Fifteen iron depleted (Serum Ferritin <40 ug x L(-1). Haemoglobin >125 g x L(-1)) subjects (19+/-3 y) first performed their routine test battery: a vertical jump test, a 10s power and 5x6s repeat sprint test on a cycle ergometer and a 20m multi-stage shuttle run. Subjects were matched on the basis of height, mass, and playing position and then assigned to either a Ferritin Group (FG) or Placebo Group (PG) (single blind design). Subjects then underwent a course of 5x2ml intramuscular injections of either Ferrum H (FG) or normal saline (PG) over a period of 8-10 days before repeating the blood and physical performance tests. Five and 10 days following supplementation, SF levels in the FG increased significantly from baseline levels (P<0.05) and were also significantly greater than levels measured in the PG (P<0.01). Haemoglobin levels remained unchanged in both groups. All test scores remained unchanged from baseline values and were not different between the two groups. These results demonstrate that a course of 5x2ml intramuscular iron injections significantly increased SF concentration within 2 weeks without increasing Hb levels, but this rapid elevation did not enhance the physical performance in selected tests of iron depleted, non-anaemic athletes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Diet
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood*
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / administration & dosage*
  • Iron / blood
  • Iron Deficiencies
  • Single-Blind Method
  • Transferrin / analysis
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Hemoglobins
  • Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron