Cortisol and testosterone concentrations in wheelchair athletes during submaximal wheelchair ergometry
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It is yet unknown how upper body exercise combined with high ambient temperatures affects plasma testosterone and cortisol concentrations and furthermore, how these hormones respond to exercise in people suffering spinal cord injuries. The purpose of this study was to characterize plasma testosterone and cortisol responses to upper body exercise in wheelchair athletes (WA) compared to able-bodied individuals (AB) at two ambient temperatures. Four WA [mean age 36 (SEM 13) years, mean body mass 66.9 (SEM 11.8) kg, injury level T7–T11], matched with five AB [mean age 33.4 (SEM 8.9) years, mean body mass 72.5 (SEM 13.1) kg] exercised (cross-over design) for 20 min on a wheelchair ergometer (0.03 kg resistance · kg−1 body mass) at 25 °C and 32 °C. Blood samples were obtained before (PRE), at min 10 (MID), and min 20 (END) of exercise. No differences were found between results obtained at 25 °C and 32 °C for any physiological variable studied and therefore these data were combined. Pre-exercise testosterone concentration was lower (P < 0.05) in WA [18.3 (SEM 0.9) nmol · l−1] compared to AB [21.9 (SEM 3.6) nmol · l−1], and increased PRE to END only in WA. Cortisol concentrations were similar between groups before and during exercise, despite higher rectal temperatures in WA compared to AB, at MID [37.21 (SEM 0.14) and 37.02 (SEM 0.08)°C, respectively] and END [37.36 (SEM 0.16) and 37.19 (SEM 0.10)°C, respectively]. Plasma norepinephrine responses were similar between groups. In conclusion, there were no differences in plasma cortisol concentrations, which may have been due to the low relative exercise intensities employed. The greater exercise response in WA for plasma testosterone should be confirmed on a larger population. It could have been the result of the lower plasma testosterone concentrations at rest in our group.
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