Objective: To determine, in a population of elite athletes at their initial presentation with tiredness or fatigue, whether a set of haematological and biochemical investigations enhances the diagnostic process over and above the information gained from clinical history and examination.
Methods: A sequential series of 50 elite athletes were studied at the initial consultation for a primary complaint of fatigue, tiredness, or a synonym thereof. A standardised clinical history, physical examination, and series of haematological and biochemical test were performed. The effects of the results of the blood tests on the diagnosis made after the clinical history and examination were examined.
Results: In only one case did the test results lead to an alteration in diagnosis. Physical examination did not provide any findings that would not have been suspected from the history, except for a number of incidental findings not relevant to the presenting symptom.
Discussion: In cases of short term fatigue in elite athletes, a thorough clinical history is mandatory. Physical examination is unlikely to reveal any findings not suspected from the history. Routine ordering of a panel of blood tests at the initial consultation should be discouraged. Unless specifically indicated by the history and examination, investigations are not required at the initial consultation.
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Published Online First 17 March 2006
Competing interests: none declared
Ethics approval: Approval for this prospective study was obtained from the ethics committee of the Australian Institute of Sport
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