Subjective stress in female elite athletes and non-athletes: Evidence from cortisol analyses

Martin Verner, Achim Conzelmann, Katrin Lehnert, Roland Seiler, Annina Wassmer, Thomas Rammsayer

Abstract


Stress response can be considered a consequence of psychological or physiological threats to the human organism. Elevated cortisol secretion represents a biological indicator of subjective stress. The extent of subjectively experienced stress depends on individual coping strategies or self-regulation skills. Because of their experience with competitive pressure, athletes might show less pronounced biological stress responses during stressful events compared to non-athletes. In the present study, the short version of the Berlin Intelligence Structure Test, a paper-pencil intelligence test, was used as an experimental stressor. Cortisol responses of 26 female Swiss elite athletes and 26 female non-athlete controls were compared. Salivary free cortisol responses were measured 15 minutes prior to, as well as immediately before and after psychometric testing. In both groups, a significant effect of time was found: High cortisol levels prior to testing decreased significantly during the testing session. Furthermore, athletes exhibited reliably lower cortisol levels than non-athlete controls. No significant interaction effects could be observed. The overall pattern of results supports the idea that elite athletes show a less pronounced cortisol-related stress response due to more efficient coping strategies.

Keywords


Cortisol; athletes; intelligence test; sport

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https://doi.org/10.5964/ejop.v6i4.223