The aim of this study was to establish whether extremely low serum ferritin values in female athletes were associated with indications of iron deficiency anemia and whether serum ferritin values were influenced by the type of training or participants' body size. Hematological data collected during 6 years at the Australian Institute of Sport were reviewed to quantify changes in serum ferritin concentration associated with training and to establish whether decrements in serum ferritin were associated with any change in hemoglobin concentration, mean corpuscular volume, or mean corpuscular hemoglobin concentration. Mean serum ferritin concentrations of 7.5 μg ⋅ L−1 were not associated with any indication of iron-deficiency anemia. Serum ferritin declined by approximately 25% with the onset of rigorous daily training (p <.01) whether training was predominantly weight-bearing or non-weight-bearing. Rowers had significantly higher ferritin concentrations than basketball players of similar stature (p = .02). We conclude that considerable background information such as the stage of training, specific sport, and previous blood results should be sought when interpreting serum ferritin concentrations in female athletes.
M.J. Ashenden, D.T. Martin, and A.G. Hahn are with the Department of Physiology and Applied Nutrition, Australian Institute of Sport, Canberra, Australia. G.P. Dobson is with the Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, James Cook University of Nth Qld., Townsville, Australia. C. Mackintosh is with Information Technology, Australian Sports Commission, Canberra. Direct correspondence to Michael J. Ashenden, Department of Physiology, Australian Institute of Sport, PO Box 176, Belconnen ACT 2616 Australia.