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Original articles  ENDOCRINOLOGY


The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness 2003 Dicembre;43(4):539-45

lingua: Inglese

The stress of competition dissociates neural and cortisol homeostasis in elite athletes

Iellamo F. 1, Pigozzi F. 2, Parisi A. 2, Di Salvo V. 2, Vago T. 3, Norbiato G. 3, Lucini D. 4, Pagani M. 4

1 Institute of Internal Medicine, “S. Raffaele” Heart Rehabilitation Center, “Tor Vergata” University of Rome, Rome, Italy
2 Department of Motor Sciences of Rome, Rome, Italy
3 Institute of Endocrinology, “L. Sacco” Hospital, Milan, Italy
4 Department of Internal Medicine I and Neurovegetative Therapy Center, “Polo L. Sacco”, University of Milan, Milan, Italy


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Aim. Stressful sit­u­a­tions ­affect auto­nom­ic ner­vous ­system activ­ity and hor­mo­nal respons­es. This ­study ­aimed to inves­ti­gate the ­effects of the ­stress of ­sports com­pe­ti­tion on ­both endo­crine ­system func­tion­ing and neu­ro­veg­e­ta­tive con­trol of ­heart ­rate (HR) in ­elite ath­letes.
Methods. In 7 top-lev­el pen­tath­letes sal­i­vary cor­ti­sol lev­els and auto­re­gres­sive pow­er spec­tral anal­y­sis of HR var­i­abil­ity (HRV) ­were ­assessed in the morn­ing and in the after­noon on a reg­u­lar train­ing day (con­trol) and on the day of a com­pet­i­tive selec­tion ­trial, ­held 4 ­weeks ­apart.
Results. HR, as ­well as low (LF) and ­high (HF) fre­quen­cy com­po­nents of HRV did not dif­fer sig­nif­i­cant­ly ­both ­between and with­in the con­trol and the ­trial ­days. On the selec­tion day, morn­ing cor­ti­sol lev­els ­were sig­nif­i­cant and mark­ed­ly great­er ­than on the con­trol day and ­increased fur­ther in the after­noon in con­trast to the con­trol day, ­when cor­ti­sol lev­els ­decreased in the after­noon as expect­ed ­from the nor­mal diur­nal vari­a­tion.
Conclusion. These ­results ­would indi­cate a dis­so­ci­a­tion of the neu­ral and hypo­tha­lam­ic-pitui­tary-adren­al ­axis func­tion­ing in ­response to the ­stress of com­pe­ti­tion in ­elite ath­letes, and the con­sid­er­able ­extent to ­which com­pe­ti­tion may ­alter selec­tive­ly the phys­iol­o­gy of ­stress-relat­ed hor­mones ­while spar­ing auto­nom­ic car­diac reg­u­la­tion.

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