Perceived stress and salivary cortisol in collegiate track and field athletes. A pilot study.

Cynthia Ferrara, Laura Donigian, Julie Lorden, Matthew Read, Joshua Turner, Allison Buckley, Jennifer Raymond


Purpose.  The purpose of this pilot study was to examine changes in stress, recovery and salivary cortisol in track and field athletes over an eight month period. Method. Stress and recovery were measured using Recovery-Stress Questionnaire for Athletes (RESTQ-52). Surveys and saliva for measurement of cortisol were collected weekly. In season and off season values were compared using t-tests (p<0.05). Results.  One hundred and one saliva samples and 90 RESTQ-52 surveys were collected from eight athletes. Those who completed at least 50% of the surveys and saliva collections (4 athletes) were included in the final analysis. Salivary cortisol levels were not significantly different in the in season vs. off season (6.1+0.7 and 5.0+0.9 nmol/L, p=0.3). For stress scales, only fatigue was significantly different in the in season compared to the off season (1.2+0.2 and 2.2+0.2). For the recovery scales, success was significantly lower in the in season vs. off season (2.8+0.2 and 3.5+0.2), whereas physical recovery was significantly higher in the in season compared to the off season (4.1+0.2 and 3.4+0.3). Conclusion.  The results of this pilot study suggest that stress and recovery values measured using the RESTQ-52 and salivary cortisol values may be variable within and between student athletes, with few significant differences between in season and off season periods. Additional studies are needed with a larger sample and a variety of athletes. These studies will help to determine effective ways to monitor perceived and physiological stress in athletes.


student athletes, stress and recovery, cortisol

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