Behaviour of saliva cortisol [C], testosterone [T] and the T/C ratio during a rugby match and during the post-competition recovery days

Eur J Appl Physiol. 2003 Sep;90(1-2):23-8. doi: 10.1007/s00421-003-0868-5. Epub 2003 May 29.


Competition is a more demanding situation than other strenuous exercise of equivalent duration; it results in stronger physiological changes. The object of this study was to get information on the duration of the recovery period by measuring changes of saliva cortisol [C], testosterone [T] and their ratio T/C in a group of international rugby players ( n=20) during the week following a rugby match (6 days). Using non-invasive saliva assays, we were able to take samples during the day of competition and the post-competitive days. Hormone levels were assayed with a routine in-house radioimmunoassay (RIA) method. Throughout the competition, C levels increased sharply (about 2.5-fold compared resting values) and returned to basal values within 4 h. Conversely, the T level decreased slightly. During the recovery period, C levels were lower and T levels were higher than basal values, resulting in a very high T/C ratio until the 5th day. This high post-competitive T/C ratio phase is probably required to restore the break-down of homeostasis induced by the very hard mental and physical strain associated with a rugby match. Thus, a period of 1 week recovery appears to be the minimal duration between two competitions.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Comparative Study
  • Controlled Clinical Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological / physiology
  • Adult
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Exercise Tolerance / physiology*
  • Football / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Saliva / metabolism*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Testosterone / metabolism*


  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone