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Athletes and Giving Blood - Part 2

By Voler Staff | 11/17/10


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Athletes and Giving Blood – Part 2


My hemoglobin is checked prior to donating blood and I've been refused occasionally for being too low. My doctor says I have "athlete's Anemia". But I'm typically right on border. But all this is somewhat off the initial issue of performance effects for those with low Hb after donating. Your article addresses those with normal Hemoglobin levels. What decrease in performance can those of us who have low Hemoglobin levels to begin with expect to see?

Tom G


I believe you’ll be hard pressed to find any studies related to performance changes of athletes suffering from any type of anemia after they have donated blood, for the simple reason that it puts the athlete’s health in a very precarious position.  

Certainly, there are female athletes who, despite trying everything possible to raise their ferritin and hemoglobin levels, myself included, have to accept figures in the lower ranges. Donating blood is definitely not advised for these individuals. Training is compromised and some have reported that there is a higher incidence of illness among athletes who donate during the competitive season. Donating during the off season would be a better approach. 

Hematologist and medical director of the Boston Marathon, Dr. Marvin Adner, notes that, “blood donation should not be a concern for active people who are not world-class athletes as long as they are not iron deficient.” Several other reports indicate that iron deficiency in males almost never occurs because of diet deficiency but rather blood donation over a long period of time.  

From what understand, you are committed to donating blood and have been involved with this for some time now. In light of this, I think it would be prudent to schedule your donation times very specifically during your off season so your performance is not affected adversely. 

My best,

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