Changes in pain perception and hormones pre- and post-kumdo competition

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The psychological stress of competition is a powerful stimulus affecting numerous hormones, which in turn change how pain is perceived. This study investigated whether a kumdo (kendo) team competition may be related to changes in hormones and pain. Seventeen healthy male kumdo practitioners participated in this experiment. Pain experiments were conducted by applying noxious stimuli with a thermal stimulator 10 min before a kumdo competition and 30 min post-competition. Serum testosterone, cortisol, beta-endorphin levels, pain thresholds, pain ratings at 48 °C and during blood sampling (sampling pain), anxiety, blood pressure, and heart rate were measured pre- and post-competition. Anxiety, pain threshold, testosterone/cortisol ratio, and blood pressure were significantly higher pre-competition compared to post-competition, while cortisol and pain ratings were significantly lower pre-competition than post-competition. There were significant correlations between the number of previous competitions and testosterone levels both pre-competition and post-competition. In pre-competition measurements, sampling pain increased with an increase in systolic blood pressure, heart rate, and beta-endorphins, and a decrease in age. In post-competition measurements, sampling pain increased with an increase in diastolic blood pressure and a decrease in testosterone levels. These results indicate that severe psychological pre-competition stress was associated with reduced pain ratings, perhaps in order to improve athletic performance. This also suggests that competitors may be at risk of potential injury due to changes in pain perception, and careful consideration should be taken to avoid potential injury before and during competition.

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