Background: Celiac disease (CD) is a common gastrointestinal pathology; however, prevalence and comorbidities are unknown in collegiate athletics.
Hypotheses: (1) Athletes will have similar odds of CD as general population estimates (approximately 1 in 141) based on self-report and signs and symptoms (2) athletes scoring higher on the Celiac Symptom Index (CSI) will have lower self- reported quality of life (QoL), (3) athletes scoring higher on the CSI will have higher depression scores, and (4) athletes scoring higher on the CSI will have higher perceived stress scores.
Study Design: Epidemiological cross-sectional study.
Level of Evidence: Level 4.
Methods: The CSI, WHO Quality of Life-BREF, Beck Depression Inventory, and Perceived Stress Scale were used to assess patients’ signs and symptoms of CD and psychosocial measures/QoL in male and female National Collegiate Athletic Association (all divisions) athletes (N = 141). Participants also self-reported a formal diagnosis of CD. Chi-square analyses determined CD prevalence. Odds ratios determined risk for either being diagnosed with CD or reporting more symptoms than the general population. Correlational analyses determined whether symptoms correlated with QoL and psychosocial measures.
Results: Athletes were 3.85 times (95% CI, 0.42-34.89) more likely to report a CD diagnosis and were 18.36 times (95% CI, 2.40-140.48) more likely to report a high degree of CD symptoms than the general population. Athletes with more symptoms had worse physical, psychological, social, and environmental QoL indicators and higher depression and perceived stress scores.
Conclusion: Athletes may be a higher risk population for experiencing CD and report greater signs/symptoms compared with general population estimates. Additionally, athletes with higher CD symptom scores also reported poorer QoL.
Clinical Relevance: Allied health care professionals should be aware of the diversity of CD symptoms and be prepared to refer athletes when gastrointestinal symptoms persist to ensure proper care and unhampered performance.
Keywords: collegiate; diet; gastrointestinal; gluten; nutrition; performance