Cortisol and recovery-stress during a competitive period in handball players

Luis Felipe Reynoso-Sánchez, José Raúl Hoyos Flores, Myriam García-Dávila, Adrián Geovanni Rosas Taraco, José Carlos Jaenes Sánchez, Jeanette M. López-Walle, Germán Hernández-Cruz


The aim of the study was to analyze plasma cortisol levels and their relation with the perception of recovery-stress balance in handball players during a training and competition period. Fourteen handball players took part in the study during a major competition. Data were collected from six blood samples in order to measure cortisol, and from four applications of the RESTQ-Sport for stress-recovery balance assessment. Compared to pre-competition (243.81 ± 36.46 ng/mL), a significative decrease (p < .01) in cortisol levels was observed in post competition (162.22 ± 69.83 ng/mL). The RESTQ-Sport subscales general stress, emotional stress, fatigue, physical recovery, sleep quality, and disturbed breaks showed significant changes between pre and post-competition. Cortisol levels were found to have positive correlation with success subscale (rho = .53; p < .05), whilst negative with fitness/injury subscale (rho = -.57; p < .05). Our findings support the idea of an anticipatory cortisol response to competition. Moreover, they provide further evidence on the influence of training over recovery-stress perception, emphasizing the importance of the psychophysiological and hormonal monitoring in order to achieve optimal athletic performance.


Anticipatory response; RESTQ-Sport; Competition; Team sports; Hormones

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