Competitive anxiety and cortisol awakening response in the week leading up to a competition

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Objectives:This study investigated the psychological as well as neuroendocrine stress response across one week before an important sport competition, introducing the cortisol awakening response (CAR) to sport psychological research.Methods:On three days in the week before the German Nationals, martial artists (N = 17) reported their competitive state anxiety and collected five samples of salivary cortisol during the first hour after awakening.Results:Hierarchic-linear models and multiple regressions were conducted. Despite a significant rise in “somatic anxiety” (p < .05), the increment of CAR across the week remained non-significant. A moderator function of competitive anxiety on the released amount of cortisol in the morning was not found significant. Results did not show any significant regression of changes in the neuroendocrine response on changes in state anxiety.Conclusion:Non-significant increments of CAR with a closer proximity to the competition may be interpreted as a possible habituation of basal hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal activity. Moreover, athletes appear to have a lower CAR than found in norm studies, which points to further investigation of interindividual and situational effects on the temporal pattern of the neuroendocrine response to sport competitions.

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