Salivary alpha-amylase, salivary cortisol, and anxiety during a youth taekwondo championship: An observational study

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The aim of this study was to assess the stress-related responses and the coach's capability to match perceived efforts of youth athletes during a taekwondo championship.

Using a cross-sectional study design, salivary cortisol (sC) and alpha-amylase (sAA) were measured in 6 males and 3 females young (11.0 ± 0.9 years) athletes at awakening, 5 minutes before, and 1 minute and 30 minutes after official combats. State anxiety was recorded 60 minutes before the first competition, whereas coach's and athletes’ ratings of perceived exertion (RPE) were obtained at the end of the combats. Time-matched (awakening and pre-competition) salivary samples and trait anxiety were collected 7-day postcompetition during a resting day.

No effect for match outcome emerged. No difference emerged between athletes and coach RPEs. Higher (P = .03) state anxiety (41.6 ± 10.9 points) was shown than trait anxiety (34.8 ± 7.1 points). Time-matched sAA were similar. Peak sAA observed at the end of the combat (114.2 ± 108.1 U/mL) was higher (P < .01) than the other samples (range: 20.6–48.1 U/mL), whereas sC increased (P < .05) from awakening (8.0 ± 1.5 nmol/L), with peak levels observed at 30 minutes into the recovery phase (19.3 ± 4.3 nmol/L). Furthermore, pre-competition sC (16.5 ± 4.5 nmol/L) values were higher (P < .01) with respect to time-matched samples during the resting day (4.6 ± 1.0 nmol/L). The 3 athletes engaged in consecutive matches showed a tendency toward increasing sAA and sC.

Taekwondo combats pose a high stress on young athletes, eliciting a fast reactivity of the sympathetic-adreno-medullary system relative to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical system. Understanding the athlete's efforts during combats, coaches are recommended to apply effective recovery strategies between matches.

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