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Role of psychological stress in cortisol recovery from exhaustive exercise among elite athletes

Abstract

Life-event stress (LES) was used to classify elite athletes (n = 39) into high-and low-LES groups. A repeated measures analysis of variance revealed higher Cortisol concentration after a graded exercise test among the high-LES group relative to the low-LES group, which was maintained for up to 20 hr. Subsequent prospective analyses further indicated that high-LES athletes were more likely to be symptomatic than low-LES athletes and that elevated Cortisol level was positively correlated with symptomatology. To the extent that Cortisol is a marker of exercise recovery in competitive atbletes, our results suggest that chronic stress prolongs the recovery process, which may potentially widen a window of susceptibility for illness and injury among competitive athletes.

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Correspondence to Frank M. Perna or Sharon L. McDowell.

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This article was supported in part by the Division of Sport Science and Technology of the United States Olympic Training Center and by NIMH research training Grant MHI8917.

We thank David Morris, Susan Fox, and the coxswains of the U.S. Women’s Crew and Vesper Boat Club for assistance in the data Collection.

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Perna, F.M., McDowell, S.L. Role of psychological stress in cortisol recovery from exhaustive exercise among elite athletes. Int. J. Behav. Med. 2, 13 (1995). https://doi.org/10.1207/s15327558ijbm0201_2

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Key words

  • life-event stress
  • Cortisol
  • elite athletes
  • graded exercise test
  • symptoms
  • recovery