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Sigal Ben-Zaken, Yoav Meckel, Ronnie Lidor, Dan Nemet, and Alon Eliakim

The aim of the study was to assess whether an aerobic-favoring genetic profile can predict the success of a shift from middle- to long-distance running. Thirteen elite middle-distance runners were divided into successful and nonsuccessful groups in their shift toward long-distance runs. All the runners began their training program at the age of 14–15, and after 6–7 years, changed focus and adjusted their training program to fit longer running distances. The participants’ personal records in the longer events were set at the age of 25–27, about 3–5 years after the training readjustment took place. The endurance genetic score based on 9 polymorphisms was computed as the endurance genetic distance score (EGDS9). The power genetic distance score (PGDS5) was computed based on 5 power-related genetic polymorphisms. The mean EGDS9 was significantly higher among the successful group than the nonsuccessful group (37.1 and 23.3, respectively, p < .005, effect size 0.75), while the mean PGDS5 was not statistically different between the 2 groups (p = .13). Our findings suggest the possible use of genetic profiles as an added tool for determining appropriate competitive transition and specialization in young athletes involved in early phases of talent development.

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Naama W. Constantini, Alon Eliakim, Levana Zigel, Michal Yaaron, and Bareket Falk

Much attention has focused on the nutrition and hematological profile of female athletes, especially gymnasts. The few studies on iron status of male adolescent athletes found a low incidence of iron deficiency. The present study investigated the iron status of male and female gymnasts (G) and compared it with athletes of other sports. Subjects were 68 elite athletes (43 M, 25 F) ages 12-18, of four sports: gymnasts (11 M, 12 F), swimmers (11 M, 6 F), tennis players (10 M, 4 F), and table tennis players (11 M, 3 F). All lived in the national center for gifted athletes, trained over 25 hr a week, ate in the same dining room, and shared a similar lifestyle. Mean levels of hemoglobin (Hb), red blood cell indexes, serum ferritin, serum iron, and transferrin were measured in venous blood. There was no difference in mean Rb among gymnasts (G) and nongymnasts (NG). However, Hb was less than 14 g/dL in 45% of M G vs. only 25% in NG, and less than 13 g/dL in 25% of premenarcheal FG vs. 15% in NG. Low transferrin saturation (< 20%) was detected in 18% of M G and 25% of FG vs. 6% and 8% in male and female NG, respectively (p < .05). The percentage of males suffering from low ferritin level (< 20 ng/ml) was twice as high in G (36%) vs. NG (19%), and about 30% in all females. In summary, iron stores were consistently lower in M G vs. NG. Adolescent athletes of both genders, G in particular, are prone to nonanemic iron deficiency, which might compromise their health and athletic performance.

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Alon Eliakim, Bareket Falk, Neil Armstrong, Fátima Baptista, David G. Behm, Nitzan Dror, Avery D. Faigenbaum, Kathleen F. Janz, Jaak Jürimäe, Amanda L. McGowan, Dan Nemet, Paolo T. Pianosi, Matthew B. Pontifex, Shlomit Radom-Aizik, Thomas Rowland, and Alex V. Rowlands

This commentary highlights 23 noteworthy publications from 2018, selected by leading scientists in pediatric exercise science. These publications have been deemed as significant or exciting in the field as they (a) reveal a new mechanism, (b) highlight a new measurement tool, (c) discuss a new concept or interpretation/application of an existing concept, or (d) describe a new therapeutic approach or clinical tool in youth. In some cases, findings in adults are highlighted, as they may have important implications in youth. The selected publications span the field of pediatric exercise science, specifically focusing on: aerobic exercise and training; neuromuscular physiology, exercise, and training; endocrinology and exercise; resistance training; physical activity and bone strength; growth, maturation, and exercise; physical activity and cognition; childhood obesity, physical activity, and exercise; pulmonary physiology or diseases, exercise, and training; immunology and exercise; cardiovascular physiology and disease; and physical activity, inactivity, and health.