Background: In endurance sports, stress, dehydration and release of chemical factors have been associated with red blood cell (RBC) alterations of structure and function, which may contribute to sports anemia, a well-observed phenomenon during long-distance running. Until now, the investigation of the changes of viscoelastic properties of RBC membrane, a decisive factor of RBC deformability to avoid hemolysis, is lacking, especially in an Oriental population. Methods: nineteen runners were prospectively recruited into our study. Hematological parameters were analyzed before and immediately after the 2015 Taipei 24H Ultra-Marathon Festival, Taiwan. Video particle tracking microrheology was used to determine viscoelastic properties of each RBC sample by calculating the dynamic elastic modulus G′(f) and the viscous modulus G″(f) at frequency f = 20 Hz. Results: Haptoglobin, RBC count, hemoglobin, hematocrit, mean cell hemoglobin, plasma free hemoglobin and unsaturated iron-binding capacity values of the recruited runners showed a statistically significant drop in the post-race values. Blood concentration of reticulocyte and ferritin were significantly higher at post-race compared with pre-race. 15 out of the 19 runners had a concurrent change in the elastic and the viscous moduli of their RBCs. Changes in the elastic and the viscous moduli were correlated with changes in the RBC count, hemoglobin and hematocrit. Conclusion: Viscoelasticity properties, the elastic modulus G′(f) and the viscous modulus G″(f) of RBCs are associated with endurance exercise-induced anemia.
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