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Celiac Disease and the Athlete

Mancini, Lee A. MD, CSCS*D, CSN1; Trojian, Thomas MD, FACSM2; Mancini, Angela C. MD3

doi: 10.1249/JSR.0b013e31820f2eab
Abdominal Conditions

With the diagnosis of celiac disease rising in the past decade and with increased public awareness, team physicians are faced with both managing and diagnosing athletes with celiac disease. Sports medicine physicians need to recognize that celiac disease can present with a number of different symptoms and, therefore, should consider celiac disease as part of their differential in evaluating athletes with prolonged unexplained illnesses. Sports medicine physicians must be familiar with the appropriate laboratory tests and diagnostic procedures used to establish the diagnosis of celiac disease. A multidisciplinary approach in helping the newly diagnosed athlete with celiac disease is important to the successful treatment of the disease. Athletes with celiac disease often have problems with iron absorption (leading to anemia) and/or vitamin D and calcium absorption (leading to osteoporosis and poor bone health). Even athletes with known and long-standing celiac disease need additional care and supervision in ensuring there is no disruption in their gluten-free diet, which can lead to a flare-up of symptoms or a decrease in performance.

1Member of the Celiac Association; UMass Memorial Medical Center, UMass Sports Medicine Center, Worcester, MA; 2University of Connecticut Health Center, Sports Medicine Fellowship Director, Hartford, CT; 3UMass Memorial Medical Center, Worcester, MA; Child Health Associates

Address for correspondence: Thomas Trojian, MD, FACSM, University of Connecticut Health Center, Sports Medicine Fellowship Director, 99 Woodland Street, Hartford, CT 06105 (E-mail:

© 2011 American College of Sports Medicine