Athletes are required to be in top physical form all through their careers. Expectations from coaches, teammates, and even fans can add a lot of pressure on athletes to always give their best performance. But what athletes need to remember is that their health and well-being should be their number one priority.
They must take all the appropriate steps to ensure that they are physically fit and that their bodies are getting everything they need to maintain good form. Aside from training in their sport and general physical work-outs, athletes need to make sure that they’re receiving adequate nutrition, sufficient rest, and enough hydration.
Periodically, athletes should also get a full physical examination from a qualified doctor to make sure that all bodily functions are normal. Injuries should be monitored to make sure that they have healed well and any pain or other symptoms looked at immediately to rule out anything serious. Blood tests are also recommended to make sure that all chemicals in the body are at optimal levels and nothing is amiss.
What Athletes Should Check For in a Blood Test
A CBC or complete blood count is done to check the overall health of an athlete. A variety of features and components are examined and several disorders can be either diagnosed or eliminated. A few of the components evaluated are the red blood cells (RBC), different types of white blood cells (WBC), platelets, hemoglobin level, and so on. Hematocrit, or the proportion of RBCs to plasma is also measured.
A CBC test can shed light on several areas of health. The shape and number of RBCs and the level of hemoglobin in the blood can tell if an athlete’s muscles are getting enough oxygen. Lower levels of hemoglobin or abnormally shaped RBCs are an indicator of anemia.
A higher level of WBCs than normal would indicate an infection which can be investigated and treated further.
Platelets help in the clotting of blood. Normal platelet levels are important for athletes who are prone to injury.
Hormones control a lot of functions in the body, from muscle repair and growth to the metabolism of food and its conversion to energy. Sometimes when an athlete’s performance drops, it could be an imbalance in hormones.
Getting a hormone test done can help in finding out about any possible deficiency or over-production which could both affect one’s athletic performance. Both male and female athletes have a wide range of hormones that can be checked.
Hormone imbalances can lead to symptoms like fatigue, weight-gain, muscle weakness, increased or decreased heart rate, muscle aches and stiffness, and several more. Athletes who suffer from any of these symptoms should get a hormone panel done to check if anything is out of place.
Hormones like thyroid, cortisol, insulin, and the sex hormones testosterone and estrogen as well as others can all have an effect on the health and performance of an athlete.
Another thing that can affect an athlete’s performance is nutrient deficiencies. Nutrients that are usually checked in blood tests are the essential micro-nutrients like vitamins and minerals.
Both vitamins and minerals are required in small quantities by the body and play a significant role in the overall functions. A deficiency in any of these can have a cascade effect that negatively impacts several bodily functions and eventually performance.
For example, Vitamin B 12 is required for the development and functioning of the brain, neurons, blood, and more. A deficiency in B 12 can lead to fatigue and weakness, affected mobility, breathlessness and dizziness, impaired vision, and mood swings among other symptoms.
A vitamin D deficiency, on the other hand, can cause muscle weakness and even lead to cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, an iron deficiency can cause anemia which in turn brings in fatigue and breathlessness.
Every nutrient has a role to play and many symptoms that affect an athlete’s performance can be traced back to a nutrient deficiency. A blood test can check for the levels of the various nutrients required by the body and pinpoint whether any of them are low. Once diagnosed, the deficiency can be treated with a supplement and the athlete can start to feel healthy again.
Athletes are prone to muscle injury which could lead to inflammation. Inflammation is a natural response to injury and is part of the body’s healing process. More blood is supplied to the injured muscle where immune and other cells can start to repair the damage to the muscle. In some cases, the inflammation might last for a long time or even cause secondary damage. Inflamed muscles do not work as well as healthy muscles and can affect an athlete’s performance.
Checking for inflammation markers especially after an injury can help an athlete assess their healing process. If there’s still a considerable amount of inflammation, it could mean that the injury is still healing. If the inflammation persists, however, then medical intervention might be required. A blood test is able to determine the level of inflammation by pinpointing certain inflammation markers.
Creatine Kinase is an enzyme that’s required for the normal functioning of muscle cells. Normal creatine kinase levels in the blood mean that all muscles including the heart are in an excellent condition. However, a raised creatine kinase level is a cause for concern. Creatine kinase levels typically skyrocket after a heart attack or another form of muscle injury.
If an athlete experiences pain in certain muscles, a creatine kinase test can be done to check if there is any muscle damage. Damaged muscles need to be rested and given time to heal.
The creatine kinase blood test is a good way to keep track of a muscle injury and its healing process. It is very important that damaged muscles are not stressed in order to prevent further injury and prolong healing.
Blood tests can diagnose both bacterial and viral infections. A high WBC count is an indicator of an infection, and a blood test is able to identify the pathogen.
Antigens and antibodies in the blood can be studied to find out exactly what’s causing the infection. Athletes who show symptoms of infections like fever, coughs, colds, and so on can do a blood test to investigate further.
Once the disease-causing germ has been identified, treatment can start. Bacteria can be treated with antibiotics while viral infections are usually managed in different ways.
Many times for viral infections, the symptoms are controlled while the body is given a chance to fight the infection.
If a blood test does show the presence of an infection, it you need to be taken to a doctor for a consultation. A physician would be the best person to interpret the results and start a course for treatment.
Fatigue Profile Test
Even the fittest of athletes can feel tired and worn out at times. This could just be the effect of over-exertion or there could be an underlying medical problem.
As mentioned earlier, fatigue can have several causes including nutrient deficiencies, hormonal imbalances, inflammation, muscle damage, and so on. It can be difficult to decide on a single test to pinpoint what exactly the problem is.
A fatigue profile test runs a full gamut of examinations to check for the most common causes of fatigue. A combined test means that blood is drawn just once and put under a number of analyses to check for anything that might be off. Once the cause is known, measures can be taken to get things back on track so that athletes can return to their best performance.
Athletes sweat a lot and could suffer from an electrolyte imbalance brought on by dehydration. A sodium or potassium imbalance in the blood can affect muscles to the point of weakness, fatigue, and even twitching. An electrolyte imbalance could greatly degrade an athlete’s ability to take part in sports and might be devastating to his/her career.
Getting an electrolyte panel blood test can help detect early signs of any electrolyte imbalance that can be corrected. The sooner the imbalance is corrected, the lower the chances of symptoms developing, and the athlete can keep going as normal without the adverse effects.
All the blood tests mentioned above can be done annually or more often if required. These tests help athletes keep track of their bodies and take better care of themselves. Routine blood tests can catch problems in the early stages and prompt action can be taken. The right treatment at the right time can make all the difference to the health and well-being of athletes.
At Personalabs we have a whole range of tests for health and fitness. Athletes can order the tests directly from us without a doctor’s intervention if they feel the need to check for a problem. All results are 100% confidential and the athlete has full control over what to do with the results. Contact us to know more about our services and how our procedure works.