Testosterone responsiveness to winning and losing experiences in female soccer players

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2009 Aug;34(7):1056-64. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2009.02.006. Epub 2009 Mar 10.


In many animal species including humans circulating androgen levels in males respond to social challenges. This response has been interpreted as an adaptive mechanism that helps the individuals to adjust their behavior to changes in social context. According to this hypothesis socially modulated androgen levels (e.g. increased levels in dominants and decreased levels in subordinates) would influence the subsequent expression of social behavior in a status-dependent fashion. This rationale is partially based on male physiology and therefore has been rarely investigated in females. Here, we investigated if a hormonal response to a social challenge that produces changes in status is also present in human females. We have collected saliva from and administered questionnaires to female soccer players of both teams playing the final match of the Portuguese Female soccer league. Samples were collected on a neutral day and on the day of the game both before and after the match. The change in testosterone levels (i.e. post-game-pre-game values=Delta(T)) was positive in the winners and negative in the losers and there was a significant difference in the testosterone change (i.e. Delta(T)) over the game between winners and losers. Cortisol levels did not vary with contest outcome. An anticipatory rise in circulating levels of both hormones (testosterone and cortisol) was detected before the match. Paralleling the hormonal responses, changes in mood and anxiety state were also found between both teams, with more positive states being observed in winners and more negative states being observed in losers at the end of the match. These results suggest that testosterone also responds to social challenges in human females and that contest-induced mood changes may influence this response.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect
  • Aggression
  • Anxiety
  • Competitive Behavior / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Saliva / chemistry
  • Soccer / psychology*
  • Testosterone / metabolism*
  • Time Factors


  • Testosterone
  • Hydrocortisone