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Hemoglobin Levels and Athletic Performance in Elite Speed Skaters During the Olympic Season 2006

Kuipers, Harm MD, PhD*†; Moran, Jane MD; Mitchell, David W MD; Shobe, Joel; Dubravcic-Simunjak, Sanda MD, PhD; Sakai, Hiroya MD, PhD; Ambartsumov, Ruben MD

Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: March 2007 - Volume 17 - Issue 2 - p 135-139
doi: 10.1097/JSM.0b013e31803bf65b
Original Research

Objective: To test the hypotheses that the hemoglobin (Hb) distribution curve in elite male and female long track speed skaters is not normally distributed and that there is a positive relationship between competitive success and Hb concentration.

Design: A venous blood sample was taken before the events from all skaters. The Hb concentration distribution curves of all ranked from 1 to 30 were tested for normality. In addition, individual Hb concentrations were plotted against ranking in the matching events.

Setting: 2006 major championships and Olympic winter games.

Participants: All elite male and female speed skaters (217 men and 200 women) competing in major international championships in 2006 and in the Olympic winter games 2006.

Main Outcome Measurements: Hb concentration and individual ranking in the matching event.

Results: The mean Hb levels in men and women were 15.7 ± 0.8 g/dL and 14.0 ± 0.7 g/dL, respectively. The distribution curve in men would meet the criteria for normal distribution when 4 values from 2 skaters with naturally high Hb levels were neglected. In the women, the distribution curve did not meet the criteria for normality because of low frequency in the right side of the distribution curve and a high frequency at the left side. The curve failed to have a steep drop off at the right side. When plotting Hb concentration against ranking, there is no correlation and relationship between Hb concentration and competitive success.

Conclusions: The Hb concentrations are within the normal range for endurance athletes, and there is no indication that the values are titrated toward the upper allowed limit. In addition, there is no relationship between Hb concentration and competitive success in elite speed skaters.

From the *Department of Movement Sciences, University of Maastricht, The Netherlands; and †International Skating Union, Lausanne, Switzerland.

Submitted for publication September 18, 2006; accepted January 21, 2007.

The authors state that they have no proprietary interest in the products named in this article.

Reprints: Harm Kuipers, MD, PhD, Department of Movement Sciences, PO Box 616, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands (e-mail: harm.kuipers@bw.unimaas.nl).

© 2007 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.