Physical Demands and Salivary Immunoglobulin A Responses of Elite Australian Rules Football Athletes to Match Play

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To examine the response or pre- and postmatch salivary immunoglobulin A concentration ([s-IgA]) to Australian Football League (AFL) match play and investigate the acute and cumulative influence of player workload and postmatch [s-IgA] after repeated participation in AFL match play.


Eleven elite AFL athletes (21.8 ± 2.4 y, 186.9 ± 7.9 cm, 87.4 ± 7.5 kg) were monitored throughout 3 matches during the preseason that were separated by 7 d. Saliva samples were collected across each AFL match at 24 h and 1 h prematch and 1, 12, 36, and 60 h postmatch to determine [s-IgA]. Global positioning systems (GPS) with integrated triaxial accelerometers were used to determine total player workload during match play. Hypothesis testing was conducted for time-dependent changes in [s-IgA] and player load using a repeated-measures ANOVA.


Player load during match 3 (1266 ± 124.6 AU) was significantly (P < .01) greater than in match 1 (1096 ± 115.1 AU) and match 2 (1082 ± 90.4 AU). Across match 3, [s-IgA] was significantly (P < .01) suppressed at 2 postmatch measures (12 and 36 h) compared with prematch measures (24 and 1 h), which coincided with significantly (P < .01) elevated player load.


The findings indicate that an increase in player load during AFL preseason match play resulted in compromised postmatch mucosal immunological function. Longitudinal assessment of AFL-match player load and mucosal immunological function across the first 60 h of recovery may augment monitoring and preparedness strategies for athletes.

Coad, Gray, and McLellan are with the Faculty of Health Sciences and Medicine, Bond University, Robina, Gold Coast, QLD, Australia. Wehbe is with the School of Exercise Science, Australian Catholic University, Brisbane, QLD, Australia.

Address author correspondence to Sam Coad at