The Effect of Steroid Hormones on the Physical Performance of Boys and Girls During an Olympic Weightlifting Competition

in Pediatric Exercise Science
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  • 1 Institute of Sport - National Research Institute
  • 2 Bangor University
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Purpose:

To examine the steroid hormone effect on the physical performance of young athletes during an Olympic weightlifting competition.

Methods:

26 boys and 26 girls were monitored across 2 weightlifting competitions. Pre- and post-competition testosterone (T), cortisol (C) and dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-s) were measured in blood, with pre-event free T (FT) and the free androgen index (FAI) calculated. Body mass (BM) and weightlifting performance were recorded.

Results:

The boys had a larger BM, superior performance with more T, FT and a higher FAI than girls (p < .01). Although C (32%) and DHEA-s (8%) levels were elevated across competition, no sex differences in hormone reactivity were seen. In boys, DHEA-s correlated with performance (r = .46), but not after controlling for BM (r = .14). For girls, T correlated with performance (r = -0.51) after BM was controlled.

Conclusion:

The sex differences that emerge during puberty were observable, whereby the boys were larger and stronger with a more anabolic profile than girls. Individual DHEA-s (boys) and T (girls) levels were related to performance, but BM appeared to be acting as a mediating (boys) or suppressing (girls) variable. This adds new insight regarding the hormonal contribution to competitive performance in young athletes.

Crewther and Obminski are with the Institute of Sport-National Research Institute, Warsaw, Poland. Cook is with the School of Sport, Health and Exercise Sciences, Bangor University, Bangor, Wales.

Address author correspondence to Blair Crewther at blair.crewther@gmail.com.