Investigation of the Relationship Between Salivary Cortisol, Training Load, and Subjective Markers of Recovery in Elite Rugby Union Players

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
Restricted access

Purchase article

USD  $24.95

Student 1 year subscription

USD  $107.00

1 year subscription

USD  $142.00

Student 2 year subscription

USD  $203.00

2 year subscription

USD  $265.00

Purpose: Insufficient recovery can lead to a decrease in performance and increase the risk of injury and illness. The aim of this study was to evaluate salivary cortisol as a marker of recovery in elite rugby union players. Method: Over a 10-wk preseason training period, 19 male elite rugby union players provided saliva swabs biweekly (Monday and Friday mornings). Subjective markers of recovery were collected every morning of each training day. Session rating of perceived exertion (sRPE) was taken after every training session, and training load was calculated (sRPE × session duration). Results: Multilevel analysis found no significant association between salivary cortisol and training load or subjective markers of recovery (all P > .05) over the training period. Compared with baseline (wk 1), Monday salivary cortisol significantly increased in wk 4 (14.94 [7.73] ng/mL; P = .04), wk 8 (16.39 [9.53] ng/mL; P = .01), and wk 9 (15.41 [9.82] ng/mL; P = .02), and Friday salivary cortisol significantly increased in wk 5 (14.81 [8.74] ng/mL; P = .04) and wk 10 (15.36 [11.30] ng/mL; P = .03). Conclusions: The significant increase in salivary cortisol on certain Mondays may indicate that players did not physically recover from the previous week of training or match at the weekend. The increased Friday cortisol levels and subjective marker of perceived fatigue indicated increased physiological stress from that week’s training. Regular monitoring of salivary cortisol combined with appropriate planning of training load may allow sufficient recovery to optimize training performance.

Tiernan, Lyons, Comyns, and Warrington are with the Dept of Physical Education and Sport Sciences and the Health Research Inst, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland. Nevill is with the Faculty of Education Health and Wellbeing, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, United Kingdom.

Tiernan (caoimhe.tiernan@ul.ie) is corresponding author.
  • 1.

    Cevada T, Vasques PE, Moraes H, Deslande A. Salivary cortisol levels in athletes and nonathletes: a systematic review. Horm Metab Res. 2014;46(13):905910. PubMed ID: 25230328 doi:10.1055/s-0034-1387797

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 2.

    Meeusen R, Duclos M, Foster C, et al. Prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of the overtraining syndrome: joint consensus statement of the European College of Sport Science and the American College of Sports Medicine. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(1):186205. PubMed ID: 23247672 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e318279a10a

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 3.

    Lovell TW, Sirotic AC, Impellizzeri FM, Coutts AJ. Factors affecting perception of effort (session rating of perceived exertion) during rugby league training. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8(1):6269. PubMed ID: 23302138 doi:10.1123/ijspp.8.1.62

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 4.

    Rogalski B, Dawson B, Heasman J, Gabbett TJ. Training and game loads and injury risk in elite Australian footballers. J Sci Med Sport. 2013;16(6):499503. PubMed ID: 23333045 doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2012.12.004

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 5.

    Gabbett T. The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med. 2016;50(5):273280. PubMed ID: 26758673 doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-095788

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6.

    Twist C, Highton J. Monitoring fatigue and recovery in rugby league players. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2013;8:467474. PubMed ID: 23319463 doi:10.1123/ijspp.8.5.467

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 7.

    Lindsay A, Lewis J, Scarrott C, Draper N, Gieseg SP. Changes in acute biochemical markers of inflammatory and structural stress in rugby union. J Sports Sci. 2015;33(9):882891. PubMed ID: 25358055 doi:10.1080/02640414.2014.971047

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 8.

    Cunniffe B, Griffiths H, Proctor W, Davies B, Baker J, Jones K. Mucosal immunity and illness incidence in elite rugby union players across a season. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2011;43(3):388397. PubMed ID: 20631639 doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181ef9d6b

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 9.

    Cormack SJ, Newton RU, McGuigan MR, Cormie P. Neuromuscular and endocrine responses of elite players during an Australian rules football season. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2008;3(4):439453. PubMed ID: 19223670 doi:10.1123/ijspp.3.4.439

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 10.

    Lindsay A, Lewis J, Scarrott C, Gill N, Gieseg S, Draper N. Assessing the effectiveness of selected biomarkers in the acute and cumulative physiological stress response in professional rugby union through non-invasive assessment. Int J Sports Med. 2015;36(6):446454. doi:10.1055/s-0034-1398528

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11.

    Papacosta E, Nassis GP. Saliva as a tool for monitoring steroid, peptide and immune markers in sport and exercise science. J Sci Med Sport. 2011;14(5):424434. PubMed ID: 21474377 doi:10.1016/j.jsams.2011.03.004

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 12.

    Halson S. Monitoring training load to understand fatigue in athletes. Sports Med. 2014;44:139147. doi:10.1007/s40279-014-0253-z

  • 13.

    Thorpe RT, Atkinson G, Drust B, Gregson W. Monitoring fatigue status in elite team-sport athletes: implications for practice. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2017;12(2):S2-27S2-34. doi:10.1123/ijspp.2016-0434

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14.

    Saw A, Main L, Gastin P. Monitoring the athlete training response: subjective self-reported measures trump commonly used objective measures: a systematic review. Br J Sports Med. 2015;50(5):281291. doi:10.1136/bjsports-2015-094758

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 15.

    Cayado P, Muñoz-Escassi B, Dominguez C, et al. Hormone response to training and competition in athletic horses. Equine Vet J. 2006;38:274278. doi:10.1111/j.2042-3306.2006.tb05552.x

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 16.

    Bishop PA, Jones E, Woods AK. Recovery from training: a brief review. J Strength Cond Res. 2008;22(3):10151024. PubMed ID: 18438210 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e31816eb518

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 17.

    Pritchard B, Stanton W, Lord R, Petocz P, Pepping G. Factors affecting measurement of salivary cortisol and secretory immunoglobulin A in field studies of athletes. Front Endocrinol. 2017;8:168. doi:10.3389/fendo.2017.00168

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 18.

    Agostinho M, Moreira A, Julio U, et al. Monitoring internal training load and salivary immune-endocrine responses during an annual judo training periodization. J Exerc Rehabil. 2017;13(1):6874.

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19.

    Nunes J, Moreira A, Crewther B, Nosaka K, Viveiros L, Aoki M. Monitoring training load, recovery-stress state, immune-endocrine responses, and physical performance in elite female basketball players during a periodized training program. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(10):29732980. PubMed ID: 24736768 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000499

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 20.

    Gaviglio CM, Cook CJ. Relationship between midweek training measures of testosterone and cortisol concentrations and game outcome in professional rugby union matches. J Strength Cond Res. 2014;28(12):34473452. PubMed ID: 24936894 doi:10.1519/JSC.0000000000000574

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 21.

    McLellan CP, Lovell DI, Gass GC. Biochemical and endocrine responses to impact and collision during elite rugby league match play. J Strength Cond Res. 2011;25(6):15531562. PubMed ID: 21602645 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181db9bdd

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 22.

    Moreira A, De Moura N, Coutts A, Costa E. Monitoring internal training load and mucosal immune responses in futsal athletes. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(5):12531259. PubMed ID: 22744297 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182653cdc

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 23.

    Rowell AE, Aughey RJ, Hopkins WG, Esmaeili A, Lazarus BH, Cormack SJ. Effects of training and competition load on neuromuscular recovery, testosterone, cortisol, and match performance during a season of professional football. Front Physiol. 2018;9:668. PubMed ID: 29930514 doi:10.3389/fphys.2018.00668

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24.

    Kumari M, Badrick E, Ferrie J, Perski A, Marmot M, Chandola T. Self-reported sleep duration and sleep disturbance are independently associated with cortisol secretion in the Whitehall II study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009;94(12):48014809. PubMed ID: 19850688 doi:10.1210/jc.2009-0555

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 25.

    Halson SL, Quod MJ, Martin DT, Gardner AS, Ebert TR, Laursen PB. Physiological responses to cold water immersion following cycling in the heat. Int J Sports Physiol Perform. 2008;3(3):331346. PubMed ID: 19211945 doi:10.1123/ijspp.3.3.331

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 26.

    Carney CE, Buysse DJ, Ancoli-Israel S, et al. The consensus sleep diary: standardizing prospective sleep self-monitoring. Sleep. 2012;35(2):287302. PubMed ID: 22294820 doi:10.5665/sleep.1642

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 27.

    Taylor DJ, Bramoweth AD, Grieser EA, Tatum JI, Roane BM. Epidemiology of insomnia in college students: relationship with mental health, quality of life, and substance use difficulties. Behav Ther. 2013;44(3):339348. PubMed ID: 23768662 doi:10.1016/j.beth.2012.12.001

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28.

    Coad S, Mclellan C, Whitehouse T, Gray B. Validity and reliability of a novel salivary immunoassay for individual profiling in applied sports science. Res Sports Med. 2015;23(2):140150. doi:10.1080/15438627.2015.1005300

    • Crossref
    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 29.

    Fisher RN, McLellan CP, Sinclair WH. The validity and reliability for a salivary cortisol point of care test. J Athl Enhanc. 2015;4(4):10.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 30.

    Foster C, Florhaug JA, Franklin J, et al. A new approach to monitoring exercise training. J Strength Cond Res. 2001;15(1):109115. PubMed ID: 11708692

    • PubMed
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 31.

    Guilhem G, Hanon C, Gendreau N, Bonneau D, Guével A, Chennaoui M. Salivary hormones response to preparation and pre-competitive training of world-class level athletes. Front Physiol. 2015;16(6):333.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32.

    Kraemer WJ, Looney DP, Martin GJ, et al. Changes in creatine kinase and cortisol in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I American football players during a season. J Strength Cond Res. 2013;27(2):434441. PubMed ID: 23358319 doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e318281d1b0

    • Crossref
    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 285 285 28
Full Text Views 18 18 1
PDF Downloads 11 11 0