Iron status of female collegiate athletes involved in different sports

Biol Trace Elem Res. 2006 Jan;109(1):1-14. doi: 10.1385/BTER:109:1:001.


Iron status was assessed in 70 female athletes aged 18-25 yr participating in collegiate cross-country track, tennis, softball, swimming, soccer, basketball, and gymnastics. No significant differences in mean hemoglobin, hematocrit, serum iron, total iron-binding capacity, transferrin saturation, and ferritin were found among teams. The mean concentrations of each parameter for each of the teams were within the normal ranges. However, several athletes from different sports had suboptimal iron status indexes. Of 17 athletes with a serum ferritin concentration < or = 15 microg/L, 8 (4 freshmen, 2 sophomores, 2 unknown) also exhibited low serum iron concentrations (< 60 microg/dL) and low transferrin saturation (< 16%). Thirteen (6 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 2 juniors, 2 seniors) of 51 (25%) athletes failed to consume two-thirds of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for iron and exhibited suboptimal serum concentrations of ferritin, iron, and/or transferrin saturation. Of nine athletes taking iron supplements, one exhibited suboptimal iron status. In summary, nonanemic iron depletion was present among female collegiate athletes involved in many different sports and in all years of participation (freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior athletes). Female athletes should continue to be individually and routinely evaluated for nutritional deficiencies throughout their collegiate athletic careers.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Ferritins / blood
  • Hematocrit
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood*
  • Iron, Dietary*
  • Sports / physiology*
  • Transferrin / analysis


  • Hemoglobins
  • Iron, Dietary
  • Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron