Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the cumulative effects of prolonged, intensive training and rapid weight loss on immunological parameters and antioxidation activity of elite male Taiwanese taekwondo athletes.
Design: 16 Elite male taekwondo athletes (mean age, 21.6 (1.3) years; mean height, 173.7 (5.5) cm) volunteered to participate in this study. Beginning at 30 days before a national competition, saliva samples were obtained during a 7-week training, the competition and the postcompetition period. Levels of salivary IgA, cortisol, lactoferrin and free-radical scavenging activity were measured at 30-, 14-, 7- and 1-day precompetition and 1-, 7- and 19-day postcompetition. Body weight and body fat were also recorded.
Results: The mean body weight was notably decreased during the week immediately before the competition. Results reveal that the levels of salivary IgA were differentially regulated during the training, competition and recovery period, while the salivary cortisol and lactoferrin concentrations and free-radical scavenging activity were not appreciably affected during the training and the competition period. Furthermore, the results of an upper respiratory tract infection incidence indicate that following the decreases of mucosal immunity, the risk of acquiring infection was significantly increased.
Conclusions: Our results demonstrated that mucosal immunity in elite male taekwondo athletes is modulated by exercise and rapid weight reduction during the training, competition and recovery period. Cumulative effects of prolonged intensive training and rapid weight reduction suppressed mucosal immunity. Furthermore, because of the "open window" of impaired immunity during the precompetition period, the incidence of upper respiratory tract infection was significantly increased after the competition.