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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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Ben-El Berkovich, Alon Eliakim, Dan Nemet, Aliza Hannah Stark, and Tali Sinai

Athletes competing in individual sports such as judo are categorized by weight. Before competitions, weight cutting is common. This cross-sectional study was designed to characterize and determine the prevalence of rapid weight loss (RWL) among adolescent judo competitors. Male athletes aged 12- to 17-years old (N = 108) were recruited from local judo teams. Each participant completed a validated questionnaire regarding RWL practices. Anthropometric measurements were also performed. Average age was 14.6 ± 1.6 years and all participants were of normal body mass index (BMI). RWL was practiced by 80% of the athletes before competition, beginning at an average age of 12.5 ± 2.2 years with the highest prevalence (~94%) in the oldest group of judoka (16–17.9 years). Precompetition weight loss duration was 8 ± 5.4 days, with an average weight reduction of 1.5 ± 1.1 kg. The number of weight loss efforts per athlete in the past season was 2.8 ± 2.2. RWL was achieved by increased physical activity (82.6%), skipped meals (56.3%), or fasting at least once (47%). Two-thirds of the athletes indicated that their coaches were the most influential figure in their decision to lose weight before competition. RWL is highly prevalent in adolescent judo competitors. The methods used by these athletes can potentially lead to significant health risks including compromised nutritional status, diminished physical performance and impaired growth and development. It is of great importance to insure that those who guide young adults in weight loss for competitive sports have the knowledge and understanding to make safe recommendations and appropriate decisions regarding achieving specific weight goals.

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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.