Young Adult Athletes

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Estimated % Fat in young adult male and female athletes in numerous sports is summarized in Tables 5 and 6. Most data are based on body density derived from hydrostatic weighing; estimates based on other methods are limited. Data for youth and adult track and field athletes by discipline are considered separately (see later).

The data summarized in Tables 5 and 6 provide an overview of estimated relative fatness and associated variation in young adult athletes in a variety of sports. Samples sizes are generally small, and many sports are not well represented. Corresponding estimates for % Fat predicted from skinfold measurements in national-level Polish athletes [43] and American intercollegiate female athletes in numerous sports are summarized in Tables 7 and 8, respectively. Within corresponding sports, % Fat of female athletes is, on average, greater than that of male athletes. Variation in % Fat by position or event within a sport is apparent for American football players (see Table 5), but is not marked among female basketball, volleyball, and track and field athletes, with the exception of the throwing events (Table 8).

The ethnic composition of samples of athletes is not usually reported; this is relevant given ethnic variation in body proportions and composition [13]. Ethnic variation in bone mineral content between American blacks and whites has been long documented [13] and influences estimates of Db via hydrostatic weighing [44]. Observations using more recent technology indicate that black women have a larger appendicular skeletal muscle mass than white women matched for age, body size, and menstrual status [45,46]. The ethnic difference is more marked in the upper than the lower extremity [45]. Limited data for American black and white males show less ethnic variation in limb musculature, but after adjustment for age, height, and mass, skeletal muscle mass of the legs is significantly larger in American blacks of both sexes. The ethnic difference also persists after adjusting for variation in relative leg length. Arm skeletal muscle mass also is significantly larger in American blacks of both sexes after adjusting for age and mass and for relative arm length [47].

The preceding observations on ethnic variation are based on nonathletes. Corresponding body composition data for athletes are limited. Estimated fatness (hydrostatic weighing) of collegiate football players is lower in black (14.7 ± 5.6%, n = 55) than white (19.0 ± 7.1%, n = 35) players [48]. Relative fatness estimated from skinfold measurements gives similar estimates, but BIA tends to overestimate % Fat based on Db, and near-infrared spectrophotometry tends to underestimate % Fat based on Db in black and white players [48]. Among female collegiate athletes, differences in estimated % Fat predicted from skinfold measurements between black and white athletes are, on average,

Table 5

Relative fatness (% Fat) in samples of male athletes in several sports

Table 5

Relative fatness (% Fat) in samples of male athletes in several sports

Sport

Age (y)

% Fat

Reference

n

Mean

SD

Method

Mean

SD

Badminton

7

24.5

3.6

HW

12.8

3.1

[21]

Baseball

10

20.8

9.9

TBW

14.2

6.7

[69]

Basketball

10

20.9

1.3

HW

10.5

3.8

[62]

Basketball

11

25.7

3.1

HW

9.7

3.1

[21]

Canoeing/kayaking

19

21.1

7.1

HW

13.0

2.5

[65]

Cycling

11

22.2

3.6

HW

10.5

2.4

[21]

Cycling

11

21.7

1.7

TBW

13.7

2.3

[66]

Cycling

13

24.1

3.1

HW

11.2

3.3

[67]

Cycling

63

21.9

3.2

HW

11.8

3.3

[65]

Field hockey

14

23.7

3.6

HW

10.3

4.4

[21]

Football by modality

40k

American football

21

19.9

9.5

[68]

American football

16

20.3

0.9

TBW

13.8

6.7

[69]

American football

65

17-23

HW

15.0

5.8

[70]

Defensive back

15

HW

11.5

2.7

Offensive back,

15

HW

12.4

5.3

receiver

Defensive lineman

15

HW

18.5

4.4

Defensive

7

HW

13.4

4.1

linebacker

Offensive lineman

13

HW

19.1

7.0

American football

[71]

Defensive back

26

24.5

3.2

HW

9.6

4.2

Offensive back,

40

24.7

3.0

HW

9.4

4.0

receiver

Quarterback,

16

24.1

2.7

HW

14.4

6.5

kicker

Defensive lineman

32

25.7

3.4

HW

18.2

5.4

Defensive

28

24.2

2.4

HW

14.0

4.6

linebacker

Offensive lineman

38

24.7

3.2

HW

15.6

3.8

American football,

55

19.4

1.2

HW

14.7

5.6

[48]

blacks

American football,

35

19.7

1.5

HW

19.0

7.1

[48]

whites

Australian rules

23

24.5

4.3

HW

8.0

3.0

[21]

Rugby union

16

24.2

3.3

HW

10.3

3.2

[21]

Soccer

9

24.8

1.9

TBW

6.2

1.9

[72]

Soccer

18

26.0

HW

9.6

[73]

Soccer

22

24.5

3.5

HW

6.9

3.3

[74]

Soccer

12

25.3

4.0

HW

9.7

3.0

[21]

Gymnastics

7

20.3

0.9

TBW

4.6

3.3

[69]

Gymnastics

8

20.2

2.7

HW

7.9

1.4

[21]

Ice hockey

27

24.9

3.6

HW

9.2

4.6

[75]

Lacrosse

26

26.7

4.2

HW

12.3

4.3

[21]

Rowing

8

24.7

3.2

TBW

7.3

1.3

[72]

Rowing

7

24.7

1.9

HW

11.2

1.4

[21]

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Sport n

Mean SD Method Mean SD Reference

Skiing

Skiing, cross-country Skiing, cross-country Speed skating Speed skating Squash

14 19.9 2.3 TBW 39 19.1 4.5 HW 19 23.8 3.2 HW 11 20.9 3.7 HW 10 25.8 4.6 TBW

  1. 3 1.9 [76] 7.2 1.9 [75]
  2. 3 4.6 [65]
  3. 2 2.8 [65]
  4. 4 2.5 [78]
  5. 2 3.7 [21] 5.0 4.5 [69]
  6. 5 2.9 [76] 7.5 3.0 [72]
  7. 3 4.6 [65] 11.2 2.8 [65]
  8. 8 2.9 [21]
  9. 8 2.6 [72]

Swimming Swimming Swimming Swimming Volleyball Volleyball Water polo

Abbreviations: HW, hydrostatic weighing; TBW, total body water; 40K, potassium 40.

quite small (see Table 8) and within the range of error associated with the prediction equation [49].

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