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.