Relationship Between Pregame Concentrations of Free Testosterone and Outcome in Rugby Union

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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To assess the measures of salivary free testosterone and cortisol concentrations across selected rugby union matches according to game outcome.


Twenty-two professional male rugby union players were studied across 6 games (3 wins and 3 losses). Hormone samples were taken 40 min before the game and 15 min after. The hormonal data were grouped and compared against competition outcomes. These competition outcomes included wins and losses and a game-ranked performance score (1–6).


Across the entire team, pregame testosterone concentrations were significantly higher during winning games than losses (P = 5.8 × 10−5). Analysis by playing position further revealed that, for the backs, pregame testosterone concentrations (P = 3.6 × 10−5) and the testosterone-to-cortisol ratio T:C (P = .038) were significantly greater before a win than a loss. Game-ranked performance score correlated to the team’s pregame testosterone concentrations (r = .81, P = .049). In backs, pregame testosterone (r = .91, P = .011) and T:C (r = .81, P = .05) also correlated to game-ranked performance. Analysis of the forwards’ hormone concentrations did not distinguish between game outcomes, nor did it correlate with game-ranked performance. Game venue (home vs away) only affected postgame concentrations of testosterone (P = .018) and cortisol (P = 2.58 × 10−4).


Monitoring game-day concentrations of salivary free testosterone may help identify competitive readiness in rugby union matches. The link between pregame T:C and rugby players in the back position suggests that monitoring weekly training loads and enhancing recovery modalities between games may also assist with favorable performance and outcome in rugby union matches.

Gaviglio is with the School of Human Movement Studies, University of Queensland, St Lucia, QLD, Australia. Crewther and Cook are with the Hamlyn Centre, Imperial College, London, UK. Kilduff is with the College of Engineering, Swansea University, Swansea, UK. Stokes is with the Dept for Health, University of Bath, Bath, UK.