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Trained and untrained males show reliable salivary testosterone responses to a physical stimulus, but not a psychological stimulus

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The testosterone (T) responses to a physical stimulus are thought to be more stable and reproducible compared to a psychological stimulus.


This study compared the salivary T (Sal-T) responses to both stimuli in four groups of men: professional rugby players (n = 17), recreational rugby players (n = 10), a mixed athlete group (n = 14) and untrained controls (n = 12).


Each group completed three treatments: (1) watching a video with aggressive rugby footage, (2) performing a short bout of sprint exercise and (3) a control session. Saliva samples were taken before and 15 min after each treatment.


The sprint exercise changes in Sal-T levels were similar in the elite rugby (17.1 ± 11.1 %), recreational rugby (11.9 ± 15.9 %), mixed athlete (27.6 ± 32.0 %) and control groups (25.3 ± 23.6 %). In response to the video, Sal-T increased in the elite rugby (6.9 ± 6.4 %) and untrained groups (11.9 ± 13.5 %), but decreased in the recreational rugby players (−7.5 ± 11.0 %). The individual Sal-T responses to the sprints were also correlated (r = 0.69 to 0.82) with other treatment responses.


Sprint exercise had a more consistent effect on Sal-T than a video with aggressive content and thus, could provide a reliable stimulus for increasing T availability in men with different training backgrounds. Individual Sal-T reactivity also appears to be somewhat stable across different treatments. These data provide further understanding around the induction, moderation and interpretation of T physiology.

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We thank the participants, researchers and trainers who contributed to this study. This project was supported by the Elite Sport Performance Research in Training with Pervasive Sensing Programme [EP/H009744/1], funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, and the UK Sports Council.

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The authors declared no conflict of interests.

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Correspondence to B. T. Crewther.

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Crewther, B.T., Kilduff, L.P. & Cook, C.J. Trained and untrained males show reliable salivary testosterone responses to a physical stimulus, but not a psychological stimulus. J Endocrinol Invest 37, 1065–1072 (2014).

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