Steroid hormones and psychological responses to soccer matches: Insights from a systematic review and meta-analysis

Maamer Slimani, Julien S Baker, Foued Cheour, Lee Taylor, Nicola Luigi Bragazzi
PloS One 2017, 12 (10): e0186100
The present systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to assess the perturbations in hormonal and psychological homeostasis in response to soccer match-play. These perturbations were explored according to match outcome (i.e., win versus loss), gender, type of contest (i.e., competitive versus non-competitive fixtures) and competitive level (i.e., novice versus high-level). The review was conducted according to the Population/Intervention or Exposure/Comparison/Outcome(s) (PICO) criteria and the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Match outcome, type of contest and competitive levels were moderator variables in the examined steroid hormones responses to a soccer match-play. Different testosterone responses were seen between match winners (increase) and losers (decrease) when compared to pre-game or baseline values (p <0.05), whilst no changes could be detected for cortisol relative to match outcome in female soccer players. Males (Δ% = 6.26; ES = 0.28) demonstrated a marginally lower increase in testosterone levels when compared to females (Δ% = 49.16; ES = 1.00), though not statistically significant. Females (Δ% = 162.7; ES = 0.98) did not demonstrate elevated cortisol match response compared to males (Δ% = 34.60; ES = 1.20). Male novice soccer match-play increased cortisol levels compared to high-level soccer match-play (Q = 18.08, p<0.001). Competitive soccer matches increased cortisol levels compared to non-competitive fixtures (i.e., collegiate tournament). Additionally, competitive levels moderate the relationship between a soccer match and testosterone levels (p <0.001), regardless of gender differences. From the presented systematic review and meta-analysis it appears (1) cortisol changes are associated with cognitive anxiety in starter female soccer players, while (2) testosterone changes are associated with changes in mood state in females and social connectedness in male soccer players. This apparent psycho-physiological relationship may proffer the opportunity for targeted intervention(s) by practitioners to favorably influence performance and/or recovery agendas. Further mechanistic and/or applied evidence is required in this regard in addition to further data sets from females.

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