Tennis, incidence of URTI and salivary IgA

Int J Sports Med. 2003 Apr;24(3):223-9. doi: 10.1055/s-2003-39096.


Tennis played at an elite level requires intensive training characterized by repeated bouts of brief intermittent high intensity exercise over relatively long periods of time (1 - 3 h or more). Competition can place additional stress on players. The purpose of this study was to investigate the temporal association between specific components of tennis training and competition, the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections (URTI), and salivary IgA, in a cohort of seventeen elite female tennis players. Timed, whole unstimulated saliva samples were collected before and after selected 1-h training sessions at 2 weekly intervals, over 12 weeks. Salivary IgA concentration was measured by ELISA and IgA secretion rate calculated (microg IgA x ml -1 x ml saliva x min -1). Players reported URTI symptoms and recorded training and competition in daily logs. Data analysis showed that higher incidence of URTI was significantly associated with increased training duration and load, and competition level, on a weekly basis. Salivary IgA secretion rate (S-IgA) dropped significantly after 1 hour of tennis play. Over the 12-week period, pre-exercise salivary IgA concentration and secretion rate were directly associated with the amount of training undertaken during the previous day and week (p < 0.05). However, the decline in S-IgA after 1 h of intense tennis play was also positively related to the duration and load of training undertaken during the previous day and week (p < 0.05). Although exercise-induced suppression of salivary IgA may be a risk factor, it could not accurately predict the occurrence of URTI in this cohort of athletes.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / immunology
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Australia / epidemiology
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / analysis*
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory / immunology
  • Incidence
  • Physical Education and Training / methods
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / epidemiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Infections / immunology
  • Saliva / chemistry*
  • Tennis / physiology*
  • Time


  • Biomarkers
  • Immunoglobulin A, Secretory